Former Lib Dem leader attacks Conservative 'obsession' with the EU

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Former leader of the Lib Dems Charles Kennedy has accused the Conservatives of having an "absolute, unbelievable obsession over Europe".

Speaking during a debate on the Queen's Speech on 8 May 2013, Mr Kennedy referred to UKIP as "a rather eccentric minority position" that is "now commanding 25% of recent votes cast and even more alarming, actually, I suspect much more than 25% of the current Parliamentary Conservative Party".

He added: "It's extremely damaging for British interests that the British Conservative Party is not anchored more in the mainstream."

Earlier, former cabinet minister John Redwood urged the prime minister to "sort out the European issue" as soon as possible in order to ensure Parliament was not left "impotent".

"We need to control our borders, we need to keep the lights on, we need to extradite people we think deserve trial somewhere else," said Mr Redwood, who also used his contribution to call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay.

Labour former culture secretary Dame Tessa Jowell highlighted the recent local elections, saying: "There has not been a time in the 40 years that I remember of active politics when the level of public engagement with the relevance of politics has been so low."

She condemned the government's "political narrative" as "characterised by a view of the worst of our national human nature rather than the best".

The Queen's speech introduced the government's Immigration Bill, which, she said, will "ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute, and deter those who will not".

The speech also outlined the government's plans to simplify pensions and improve consumer rights.

Debate on the Queen's Speech will continue for a further five days in Parliament, and the first themed debate - which takes place on 9 May - will focus on home affairs.

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