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We will fight fracking law extension, says SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell

By Noel McAdam

Northern Ireland rated barely a mention in the Queen's Speech yesterday – with not a single piece of legislation aimed specifically at the province.

MLAs were watching the State occasion for any hint of a decision on lowering corporation tax here, although it is not expected until after the Scottish independence referendum in September.

The Queen gave nothing away, only saying: "My Government will continue to work with the devolved administration in Northern Ireland to rebalance the economy, promote reconciliation and create a shared future."

One area of controversy was a new Infrastructure Bill that could mean companies would not need permission from homeowners in England to drill under houses and land for shale oil and gas.

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell warned against any attempt to extend the measures here.

"We will oppose any such legislation in Westminster and call on all parties in the Assembly to do likewise," he said.

The South Belfast MP also said he would lobby for Northern Ireland to receive funding for nusery places after the Government promised tax-free childcare measures in England.

"We will insist Northern Ireland receives the appropriate Barnett consequentials to ensure we can extend the provision of free nursery places to all three and four-year-olds," he said.

Barnett consequentials refer to a proportionate share of spending here on comparable functions in England.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said there were positives in the speech – the national reform of pensions and the Modern Slavery Bill designed to tackle human trafficking – and omissions.

"One promise the Conservatives have not delivered on, and for which we will be pushing, is for legislation cutting off the payments to Sinn Fein MPs who do not take their seats," the North Belfast MP added.

Despite the lack of impact in Northern Ireland, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said the Queen's Speech included a number of Bills of great importance to people here, including cutting national insurance for businesses and reforming pensions.

Mrs Villiers also claimed Northern Ireland benefits from having the most competitive business taxes in the G20; increasing the income tax threshold to £10,500, benefiting more than 600,000 people here, and the abolition of national insurance contributions for the under 21s.

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