‘Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill’ introduced into House of Commons

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A BILL that would embed sustainability into UK policy-making in terms of fighting climate change, poverty and health inequalities has been introduced to the Parliament.

Even though the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill is not backed by the Government, it has gathered cross party support ever since it was introduced to the House of Lords in October 2019 by the founder of Big Issue, Lord John Bird.

In essence, the law would make the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015 UK-wide, which would include:

  • Setting out the future generations principle, which will be defined as ‘seeking to ensure that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’, and is adapted from UN sustainable development policy, highlighting the close links between the aims of the Welsh legislation and Agenda 2030.
  • A Future Generations Commissioner for the UK, whose primary duty will be to act as a guardian of the ability of future generations to meet their needs, but also to oversee UK Government policy and duties.
  • Publish future generations impact assessments of the likely impact on future generations of a proposed change in expenditure, policy or legislation.
  • Report on and seek to increase their preventative spending in according with the future generation principle.

When introducing the Bill for its first reading at the House of Commons on 24 March, MP Caroline Lucas stated: “I wish that I was introducing the Bill in very different circumstances, but I am confident that hon. Members can see that it does not conflict with our immediate priorities, which are rightly elsewhere.

“Indeed, at times like this, it is only human to ask, “What could we have done differently to prevent this from happening? How can we stop something like this ever happening again?”

“Our common interests, our connectivity to one another and our compassion are all burning bright in an otherwise dark moment.

“Acting today for tomorrow is as relevant now as it will ever be.

“As we wrote yesterday, as co-sponsors of the Bill, in a letter published in The Guardian:

“It is essential to deal with coronavirus as it is—a global emergency—but it is clear we must work harder to predict and prepare for the existential risks we face. Not only the threat of pandemics, but the climate crisis too.

“That is the nub of the Today for Tomorrow campaign. It is backed not just by all the sponsors of the wellbeing of future generations Bill, but by over 70 MPs in total and many in the other place who spoke eloquently in favour of its proposals.

“The future generations Bill is also gaining support from across civil society, my constituents and, I am sure, from many others as well.

“It all suggests that the desire to be better ancestors is incredibly strong.

“To me, it also suggests that we know in our hearts and in our heads that the way that we currently make policy and legislation does not adequately prioritise the well-being of our children and grandchildren.

“When we are rebuilding on the other side of this pandemic, we can choose to do so with greater consideration than ever to future generations, with stronger compassion for every person and their well-being, and with an unshakeable commitment to building an economy and society that works for everyone now and for the future.

“It is these values of compassion and consideration, co-operation and courage that hold us together in times of disaster, and the same values are at the heart of this Bill, which it wants to centre in our politics at all times.”

The Bill is a long way from reaching the statute book and without gaining government backing, it may never become law.

This article draws from G. Thomas, ‘Back to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill’, U.K. Const. L. Blog