NOT many people enjoy paying tax.

Seeing the amount deducted at the bottom of the payslip is pretty depressing, while many people will be wrestling with self-assessment forms before the deadline at the end of this month.

That makes it all the more important to achieve greater efficiency in Government. Money is certainly wasted on unnecessary initiatives and unproductive activity.

But tax is also the price we all pay for living in a civilised society. Local schools, care for the elderly, doctors at Musgrove Park, police officers - these services all cost a lot of money.

With the British Government borrowing an extra £500million every single day, there is little immediate prospect of major tax cuts, whoever wins the forthcoming election.

But where there is scope for reducing taxes, priority should be given to cutting income tax for people on low and middle incomes. That is why I have been arguing in the House of Commons that the first £10,000 that people earn each year should be tax free.

Employees earning over £10,000 would be better off - by about £700 a year - and so would very low earners. The change could be funded by closing existing loopholes, including standardising the rate of pension tax relief and equalising capital gains tax with income tax.

A £10,000 starting rate for income tax would reward hard work and reduce dependence on welfare payments. Most importantly, it would help those people who most need extra financial assistance.

Paying tax will always be a fact of life, but we can make the tax system more simple, efficient and fair.