The draft legislation aims to enshrine in law the creation of an independent UK Commissioner for Future Generations and a requirement on (non-devolved) public bodies, including the UK government, to balance the needs of the present with the needs of the future.
The Future Generations Bill – which is set to be introduced into the House of Commons by Green MP Caroline Lucas – is inspired by the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which came into force in Wales in 2016 to act as a bulwark against short-termism.
Lord Bird’s UK bill aims to add extra teeth to the Welsh act by adding an explicit legal right for individuals to hold those bodies to account where their duties are not being met.
As Lord Bird puts it: “I hope the bill 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.”
And since it was launched earlier this month, it has already received plenty of support, including from Lord Andrew Adonis, think tank IPPR, the Intergenerational Foundation and Wales’ Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Howe.
“Young people are rightly calling out current leaders who are failing to act on issues which will affect their futures such as climate change,” said Howe, who invited Lord Bird to deliver the annual Future Generations lecture in Cardiff last year.
“Our internationally groundbreaking legislation in Wales, the Well-being of Future Generations Act provides this framework alongside an independent mechanism to hold government to account.
“There’s never been a greater need for something similar covering UK government.”
The Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development’s chair of trustees Graham Smith added: “It’s high time that parliament recognised that new ways of working are needed to avoid the short-termism endemic in our politics.
“So many of today’s big issues require a long-term perspective. It is time for change.”
Young people are rightly calling out current leaders who are failing to act on issues which will affect their futures such as climate change
Labour peer Lord Adonis said: “I’m a huge fan of John Bird. He makes a good contribution to the Lords and he’s always thinking about the better future and I completely agree with him.
“I think that him founding The Big Issue is one of the best things that’s happened, not just in publishing but putting homelessness and deprivation on the political agenda. And I think his bill will do the same as well, so I will be thoroughly behind him.”
The Future Generations Bill is part of a wider campaign by The Big Issue to dismantle poverty by laying the groundwork now for a more equal society for the generations who follow. We’re calling it Today for Tomorrow and you can find out more in the magazine over the coming months.
And visit TodayForTomorrow.org.uk to find out what you can do.