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Big Issue founder Lord Bird launches UK’s first Future Generations Commission

The crossbench peer will bring together representatives from all four UK nations to embed long-termism and prevention in UK policy-making

Big Issue founder Lord John Bird wants to banish short-termism in UK politics with his Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill. Image: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Lord John Bird is set to launch the first UK-wide Future Generations Commission in a bid to introduce more long-term thinking in politics to tackle big issues such as poverty and the climate crisis.

Social policy experts and young people from all four nations of the UK will sit on the commission, which will uphold the principles behind The Big Issue founder’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill.

The draft legislation is scheduled to undergo its second reading in the House of Commons on September 10 as Lord Bird launches the Future Generations Commission.

“We are in desperate need for long-term thinking embedded in UK policy making. Our Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill and our Future Generations Commission will, if made into law, put an end to short-term policies, which only serve to bite us back later,” said Lord Bird.

“The launch of the new commission and the second reading of the bill coincides with The Big Issue’s 30th Birthday, which feels appropriate. As we look back at the last 30 years and the issues we have faced, we must also look to the next 30 years and ask the question – what needs to be done to make it better for our future generations?”

Lord Bird’s Future Generations Bill aims to set out a new sustainable vision in Westminster, prioritising the country’s environmental, social, economic and cultural wellbeing.

If passed into law, the bill would assist the government in preventing problems before they arise, according to Lord Bird, rather than dealing with emergencies. It will also banish short-termism that blights policy-making, looking beyond the five-year cycles in government to come up with long-term solutions to societal problems.

It is vital we stop approaching these issues from the backfoot. It shouldn’t be about putting fires out; we need to be preventing the fires before they have a chance to start

Sophie Howe, the future generations commissioner for Wales

The bill is being sponsored through the House of Commons by Barrow and Furness MP Simon Fell.

“It is clearer than it has ever been that putting long-termism at the heart of UK politics is essential,” said the Conservative MP. “This is not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because our constituents, especially in newly-Conservative seats such as mine, are asking us to do it. The Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill and Future Generations Commission are crucial first steps in ensuring this happens.”

The Future Generations Commission is the first effort towards UK-wide thinking on the issue, bringing together experts and young people from across the UK.

Jimmy Paul, director of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland, and 22-year-old Denisha Killoh, leader of the National Childhood Bereavement Project, represent Scotland on the commission.

Aideen McGinley, deputy chair of the Carnegie Trust UK, is bringing a Northern Ireland perspective to the commission alongside 18-year-old youth campaigner Matthew Devine.

Public philosopher Roman Krznaric, part of The Big Issue’s Today for Tomorrow campaign supporting the bill and commission, will speak for England alongside Anita Okunde, an 18-year-old activist focusing on the climate crisis.

Meanwhile Sophie Howe, the future generations commissioner for Wales, will sit on the commission alongside Bleddyn Harris, a 28-year-old organisational development specialist.

Howe became the world’s first future generations commissioner when Wales introduced its own Wellbeing of Future Generations Act in 2016. Last week Scottish ministers signalled their own intention to follow suit.

The Future Generations Commission is a “vital next step” to protecting the future of young people across the UK, according to Howe, as Lord Bird attempts to bring through legislation in Westminster.

“Although we have made great progress in Wales, we really need a united effort if we are going to tackle the most difficult issues facing our young people,” said Howe.

“Each day we hear about new emergencies and challenges facing the country – from climate disaster and pandemics, to poverty and the housing crisis. It is vital we stop approaching these issues from the backfoot. It shouldn’t be about putting fires out; we need to be preventing the fires before they have a chance to start.”

To read more about the commission head to The Big Issue’s Today for Tomorrow campaign website.

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