Charles Kennedy: We stand united, independent, determined

From the closing speech by the Liberal Democrat leader to his party's annual conference in Brighton
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The Independent Online

Liberal Democrats have certainly won the respect of older people in this country for standing up for their rights and their dignity.

We are the party which has fought against the complexity and unfairness of the pension credit, which has fought for extra on the pension for the over-75s and over-80s. which has campaigned long and hard for free personal care. But we must not forget that there are increasing numbers of people in their late fifties and sixties whose concerns are not necessarily the same as those over 70.

To take one example, many of them are frustrated that it is not possible to combine working part-time with drawing part of their pension. I want our party to step up its efforts to champion the concerns of everybody who has reached the second half of their lives. To this end, I've set up a new task force on the third age.

There's another cause which has always been central to this party's beliefs - the cause of Europe. We are at a decisive moment in British politics where Europe is concerned. Tragically, a decisive moment presided over by an indecisive government. It's left to us to put the positive European case. And that's what we'll be doing in those all-important European elections next year.

But we're sensible, not supine, in our attitude towards Europe. The European Union must be more open, less remote and more accountable.

We are committed to Britain maintaining a veto on fundamental constitutional issues - the right of our House of Commons to decide if British troops are ever sent into military conflict, the right of our House of Commons to decide budget and tax matters, the right of our House of Commons to decide pay and social security. We broadly welcome the blueprint for the new Europe set out in the European Constitutional Convention. We have always said that major constitutional changes should be subject to referendums. That remains our position. We stand united, independent, determined.