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Future Generations Bill can do what levelling up plans won’t, Lords meeting hears

A meeting was held to discuss how to ensure the success of Big Issue founder Lord John Bird’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill.

The Future Generations Bill can do what levelling up plans won’t, politicians said at an event to discuss the landmark bill being brought forward by Big Issue founder Lord John Bird.

The environment, jobs, skills, and poverty were on the agenda at a round table event figuring out how to make levelling up part of Bird’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill.

The bill, which would ensure the government makes decisions based on how they will affect future generations, will begin its second reading in the commons in March.

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Lord Mike Watson, Labour’s Lords education spokesperson, said the bill could fix a short-sightedness around the levelling up agenda.

He said: “The Levelling Up White Paper goes to 2030, that’s not nearly far enough. That’s why Lord Bird’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill is needed.”

Attended by Lords from across the chamber, social mobility commissioner Katharine Birbalsingh, representatives from the TUC and Prince’s Trust, and others, the group discussed how to fuse levelling up with the wellbeing of future generations.

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Lord Bird told attendees: “I’ve come to slit the throat of poverty.”

With the long-awaited Levelling Up white paper published a week before the meeting, much talk was on how to combine the two agendas – and make sure efforts to level up were sustainable on a decades-long timescale.

Each of those present presented priorities on what it would take to make sure future generations benefited from levelling up – from tax cuts and meritocracy to jobs, social justice, and net zero.

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Lord Bird’s bill is inspired by Wales, where the Well-being of Future Generations bill passed in 2015.

Sophie Howe, future generations commissioner for Wales, told the room: “Wellbeing of future generations is about connections. For example, what we do in terms of the levelling up agenda now should be connected to what it is going to do for poverty and future generations.

After passing through the Lords and gaining a sponsor in the House of Commons, the Wellbeing of Future Generations bill will begin its second reading on March 18.

Keen to avoid the sense that – in the words of one attendee – “when all is said and done, more is said than done”, the group put forward specific policy suggestions for what could be done.

They included raising the minimum wage, creating jobs programmes for green jobs, investment in the first thousand days of life.

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