The coalition Government have confirmed plans for their final year in office following todays Queens speech. The SDLP will support any legislation which will improve the standard of living for hard-pressed working families so we will study with interest the coalition plans to allow workers to contribute to Dutch-style collective pensions.
Suggestion of a new state-funded childcare subsidy worth up to £2,000 a year also sounds promising and we will insist Northern Ireland receives the appropriate Barnett consequentials so to ensure we can extend the provision of free nursery places to all 3 and 4 year olds.
We recently opposed the damaging Coalition changes to Northern Ireland Civil Servants redundancy terms which were then implemented by the DUP so proposals to attempt to stop senior public sector employees exploiting the redundancy pay system are welcome, if slim comfort.
On a positive note, the coalition’s plans for a 5 pence charge for plastic bags in England is welcome recognition of the success of the Northern Ireland plastic bag levy introduced by former SDLP Minister Alex Attwood. This will undoubtedly improve environmental protection on these islands.
It is essential that in Northern Ireland we continue to do likewise and I would encourage our partners in the NI Executive to support SDLP plans for an ambitious Northern Ireland climate change strategy and to oppose fracking.
I am very concerned that the Coalition Government want to give energy companies the right to run shale gas pipelines under private land. We will oppose any such legislation in Westminster and call on all Parties in the Assembly to do likewise with any resultant legislation for Northern Ireland.”