The Future Generations Bill has begun its journey through the House of Lords once again after Lord John Bird gave his private member’s bill its first reading on Wednesday.
The Big Issue founder’s proposed legislation was originally introduced to Parliament on October 21 last year by Green peer Baroness Jenny Jones, but the bill was forced to go back to square one after the general election ended the parliamentary session.
Crossbench peer Lord Bird was in the Lords on Wednesday to reintroduce the Future Generations Bill, which is one of the 20 ballot bills at the top of the pile in the Lords after it was drawn fourth in the private member’s bill ballot on December 20. Meanwhile, in the Commons ballot, Labour pair Anna McMorrin and Kate Osamor as well as the SNP’s Dr Philippa Whitford and Conservative MP Simon Fell featured in the top 20 spots.
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Addressing the Lords at the first reading, Lord Bird said: “I beg to introduce a bill to make provision for requiring public bodies to act in pursuit of the United Kingdom’s environmental, social, economic wellbeing by meeting wellbeing objectives. I beg that this bill be read a first time.”
If it passes into law, the Future Generations Bill aims to ensure that the decisions made by public bodies, including government departments, in the present take into account the impact on wellbeing for the generations that follow. It would require the creation of a UK-wide Future Generations Commissioner to scrutinise decisions and policies to ensure that their future effects are not overlooked, inspired by the existing Welsh act. In addition, the legislation will require a joint-parliamentary committee to be setup on future generations.
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Since its last appearance in the Lords, the Future Generations Bill has been bolstered with a number of additions following feedback from academics, activists and experts at a workshop held by Lord Bird last November as well as a youth roundtable the previous month.
There is now a new wellbeing duty on company directors as well as a move to extend the Public Services (Social Value Act) 2012 to cover services, goods and work contracts. The bill also aims to set up a new citizens’ assembly to determine the wellbeing goals that public bodies will be required to meet.
The date for a second reading – the first chance for politicians to debate the bill in the Lords – is still to be confirmed.
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Speaking ahead of the bill’s first introduction to the Lords, Lord Bird said: “I hope it will pass through Parliament and help us make the world of tomorrow not simply an accumulation of the half-arsed hopes and the short-term governmental thinking of days gone by. A Commissioner who will aggressively stand up for the interests of those yet to enter the world.”
During the wait for the Future Generations Bill to be reintroduced into the Lords, The Big Issue launched the Future Generations Pledge, asking politicians to consider the generations that follow.
The pledge received cross-party backing with 561 candidates signing up ahead of the general election. Of those, 72 politicians were voted into power and The Big Issue will be scrutinising their actions in Westminster and beyond in 2020 to ensure they keep their word.