Martin Salter - working hard for Reading West

Westminster Diary

It was off to surgeries again this weekend and Friday night’s drop-in session in Whitley threw up a host of issues. I managed to get away in time to have a late dinner with some of the Pakistani community leaders in Reading where we discussed the horrific murder of Asha Muneer. Saturday morning started early with another advice surgery in my constituency office, then it was off to the Mad Stad to see the mighty Reading Royals dump Burnley out of the FA Cup. Why oh why can’t they show this form in the Championship? After the game I went to visit the Muneer family who have been inundated with messages of support from across the community at this horrible time.

According to the “British Social Attitudes” survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research we are all getting more liberal in our old age. The survey, which asks people about their attitudes to politics and social matters, found that just 36 percent now thought homosexual acts were “always” or “mostly” wrong, down from 62 percent in 1983. More people felt that it made “no difference” whether a child’s parents were married or cohabiting, and in general we appear to have become a more tolerant and less bigoted society. With the Tories still in disarray over their ill-thought out and uncosted proposals for tax breaks for married couples, irrespective of whether they have children, and their recent opposition to civil partnerships, it is clear that whilst society has moved on from the 1980s many Conservatives certainly haven’t.

On Tuesday, my colleague Tom Harris MP used a Point of Order in the Commons to highlight the receipt of £21,000 from the wife of the chairman of the private health company Care UK to the office of Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. These regular donors to the Tory Party have unsurprisingly welcomed the commitment in the draft Conservative manifesto to “open up the NHS to include independent and voluntary sector providers.” Preferential funding for private offices from businesses well placed to benefit is potentially a lot more serious than frivolous expense claims for bath plugs or bell towers. This follows on from the 2008 revelations that the office of the then Shadow Energy Secretary was receiving declared donations from an oil company and the Shadow Chancellor’s office was part funded by hedge fund bosses.

On Wednesday I finally got called at Prime Minister’s Questions to highlight the ongoing campaign to provide a permanent memorial for Trooper Fred Potts, Reading’s only holder of the Victoria Cross. On Thursday I was on hand to block any attempts to scupper the much needed private bill, promoted by Reading and five other councils, to regulate the activities of pedlars and illegal traders.