The private members bill, developed by Big Issue founder Lord John Bird, would put a legal obligation on the government to put long-term thinking at the centre of policy decisions.
It has drawn cross-party support and already has the backing of MPs ahead of its arrival in the House of Commons, including Green MP Caroline Lucas and the Conservatives’ Simon Fell.
“It’s a momentous day for our younger and future generations and I am pleased and proud that the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill has reached its third reading,” Lord Bird said. “To get to this stage is no small feat, and goes to show the breadth of support this legislation has.
“The reach of the bill is already being felt, with the government’s recent levelling up white paper placing the wellbeing of young people and future generations at the heart of its agenda.”
The pandemic proved the importance of developing policies that will benefit generations to come, Lord Bird said, and would put an end to short-term policies “which only serve to bite us back later”.
He added: “Put simply, this bill would ensure we are always investing in the fence at the top of the cliff rather than the ambulance at the bottom.”
If passed into law, the bill would compel the government to take preventative action against problems such as the climate crisis and poverty.
“Short-termism is a curse of our political and financial decision-making. We need to start putting the long-term interests of our country, our economy and the environment ahead of instant profit or political gain,” said Lucas.
“It’s completely wrong that future generations are left to deal with the fallout of action or inaction by today’s political leaders when they have no say in these decisions. The Future Generations Bill gives them a say and puts their welfare at the heart of today’s decision-making.”
SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford, also backing the bill in the Commons, said it could transform the way UK leaders approach the country’s health.
“Whenever we discuss ‘health’ there is a tendency to focus on NHS services, despite these being predominantly about treating illness,” she said.
“Good health and wellbeing is largely dependent on other aspects of our lives such as children getting a decent start in life, everyone having a warm dry home, enough to eat, access to education and opportunity and a stable planet to live on.”
The bill was first introduced into the House of Lords in October 2019 but was forced to restart its journey through parliament in March 2020 following the last general election. The pandemic then put a pause on private members bills, but it was reintroduced to the House of Lords last year.
The proposals are inspired by legislation already in place in Wales. The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 came into force in 2016, demanding that 44 public bodies, including Welsh ministers, take action to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural wellbeing of the population.
The bill would “ensure that decisions made today account for future need, and tackle problems such as health, education and opportunity inequalities for the long-term,” said Simon Fell.
“It is clearer than ever that putting long-termism at the heart of UK politics is essential, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because our constituents are demanding that we do so across a wide range of issues.
“That is why the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill has my full backing, and I look forward to supporting through the House of Commons.”
Find out more about the bill and how to support it here.
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