OVER several months I have been scrutinising the Government's Finance Bill, which puts all their tax changes into law.

The process is rigorous, with days of debate in the main House of Commons chamber, and many weeks of detailed committee sessions.

The backdrop is the ruinous state of the public finances. Our national debt is rising by an extra £480 million every single day.

Instead of serious proposals to tackle this deficit, the Finance Bill contained small and unpopular measures which will raise very little extra revenue.

Tax on beer is now rising above the rate of inflation every year. That will put more pubs out of business and make breweries less profitable at a time when beer consumption is actually falling.

Bingo tax has been increased and is now higher than for other forms of gambling. Bingo clubs are closing and the overall amount of extra money raised will be tiny.

Even the new 50p higher rate on earnings over £150,000 a year will not, on the Government's own figures, significantly reduce the deficit, and it breaks a manifesto promise not to raise income tax.

Britain is in recession and unemployment is rising. Tax revenue has collapsed because of factors like falling company profits and fewer house sales.

This Finance Bill was timid and counterproductive. A fresh start, with purposeful leadership and new ideas, is needed instead.