Senior Tory warns against EU exit


Part one of the debate can be viewed here.

A senior Conservative MP has warned against the UK leaving the European Union as he told MPs to "ignore the siren calls of isolationist parties".

Sir Richard Ottaway said that those calling for UK withdrawal are engaging in "a policy of the heart and not of the head" - in reference to the eurosceptic UK Independence Party, which topped the poll in the national European Parliament elections last month.

Mr Ottaway, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, acknowledged the need to reform the EU, but insisted: "Now is not the time to isolate ourselves on the fringes of the world markets."

His comments came as MPs debated the contents of the Queen's Speech, which sets outs the government's legislative agenda for the final session of this Parliament, on 4 June 2014.

"The UK is less than 1% of the world's population and 2.7% of its economy, and trying to survive in those market places through a network of bilateral treaties would lead to disaster," Sir Richard asserted.

Labour MP and Work and Pensions Committee chair Dame Anne Begg took the opportunity to raise concerns about the implementation of Universal Credit, which replaces six existing benefits, including jobseeker's allowance and child tax credit.

Dame Anne said the government should be "upfront" that the IT "is not working", and described the roll-out of the programme as a "farce".

Hugh Bayley, Labour MP and Nato Parliamentary Assembly president, used his speech to urge against further cuts to the defence budget which he said were sending the "wrong signal" to the UK's allies, and Russia.

He told MPs Russian defence spending had increased 10% a year in real terms since 2008, whereas Nato allies cut it by 10% over the same period, and the UK by 18% since 2009-10.

"I believe now is the time to ask our leadership, on both sides of the House, to put national security first, to stop cutting defence expenditure, to start rebuilding our security forces," the York Central MP added.

Debate on the Queen's Speech was later adjourned until Thursday, when MPs will discuss policies relating to the cost of living, energy and housing.

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