In the Budget debate today, Michael Fallon made his first intervention since resigning from the government over misconduct allegations. Fallon’s contribution was broadly loyal to the government, taking the fight to Labour in his typical style. But he said he’d seek an opportunity in the near-future to talk, with greater freedom than collective responsibility had allowed, about the appropriate levels of defence spending needed to deal with today’s threats.
Fallon had four policy proposals to make. First, he argued that the National Insurance threshold should be raised in line with the income tax one. He pointed out that we are now in a situation where some low paid workers are paying as much in NI contributions as they are income tax. Second, he argued for a way of taxing digital companies that would level the playing field between them and high street stores. Third, he argued for a revival of shareholder capitalism. He pointed out that when Margaret Thatcher left government in 1990, 11 million people owned shares. Today, however, only 8 million do. Fallon called for tax breaks for companies that offer free shares to employees and for discounted shares to be offered to the public when the government’s stake in RBS is sold off. His fourth was for government support for businesses to be dependent on them exporting.
One hopes that Fallon will speak regularly from the backbenches. There has been a regrettable trend in recent years for senior politicians to leave the Commons soon after quitting government. This has led to a dearth of experience in the House; there is, for example, no former Prime Minister in the Commons at the moment. But the presence of experienced and engaged politicians on the backbenches can help to raise the level of debate.