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The UK Future Generations Bill

The UK 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. Prof Daniella Tilbury, Gibraltar’s Commissioner for Sustainable Development and Future Generations has been liaising with Parlimentary officials supporting the development of the Bill as well as its passage of through Parliament.

The Progress of the Bill through Parliament can be tracked here.

Inspired by the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015 – and the lessons learned since its enactment – the UK Bill seeks to enshrines the following in law:

  1. 1. The future generations principle, which will be defined as ‘seeking to ensure that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’, and is adapted from UN sustainable development policy, highlighting the close links between the aims of the Welsh legislation and Agenda 2030.

  2. 2. A series of (sub-principles or) ways of working; including:

    1. a. Balancing short-term and long-term needs

    2. b. Acting preventatively

    3. c. Forecasting emerging risks.

  3. 3. A Future Generations Commissioner for the UK, whose primary duty will be to act as a guardian of the ability of future generations to meet their needs, but also to oversee UK Government policy and duties.

  1. 4. Future generations duties on (non-devolved) public bodies, including the UK Government, to:

    1. a. Set and work towards well-being goals in accordance with the future generations principle. Inspired by Wales’ seven well-being goals, these UK goals will be set following a UK Government-led consultation over a six-month period.

    2. b. Demonstrate how they are acting in accordance with the future generations principle in seeking to improve people’s economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being. This is combined with corresponding rights of legal redress to hold public bodies to account.

    3. c. Publish future generations impact assessments of the likely impact on future generations of a proposed change in expenditure, policy or legislation.

    4. d. Report on and seek to increase their preventative spending in according with the future generation principle.

  1. 5. Future generations duties on UK Government ministers to:

    1. a. Publish a national risk assessment containing (a) an assessment of future emerging risks, and (b) how they plan to manage and prepare for those risks.

    2. b. Publish future trends reports, which must take into account the views of (a) the UK Committee on Climate Change, (b) the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and (c) school and further and higher education students via an annual survey.

  2. 6. A Joint Parliamentary Committee for the Future to (a) scrutinise legislation for its effect on future generations, (b) hold UK Government ministers accountable for short-term decision-making, and (c) report on future trends.

The Official Parliamentary Launch:

Wednesday 12th February 2020 saw the official parliamentary launch of the UK’s Future Generations Bill. The Bill is seeking to embed long-term planning and the interests of future generations at the heart of UK policy-making, aiming to confront the climate emergency as well as youth disengagement and increasing social inequalities.

Prof Tilbury was invited by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Future Generations (APPG-FG) to speak at a closed committee meeting of MPs and Peers. 

Parliamentarians were briefed of the work undertaken in Gibraltar, as well as Wales, in the area of sustainable development. Sophie Howe, the Welsh Commissioner spoke of Wales’ track record over recent years. Mutual ambitions to end short-term planning and embed future generation’s interest in law were discussed. The committee was chaired by Bambos Charalambous MP and counted with the highest level of attendance since its establishment. Members of the House were having to stand to listen to contributions given size of the audience.The aim of themeeting was to respond to queries from parliamentarians and to agree a future plan of parliamentary action including a debate in the House of Commons.

‘Those at the meeting recognised that there is a need to work preventatively, and with foresight so that we can address challenges that face our communities today. Joint-up policy-making is the key to defeating shorterm-ism’explained Prof Tilbury. ‘Delivering on this intergenerational commitment also requires connected efforts across public bodies and innovative private sector partnerships.’

The meeting with parliamentarians was followed by a civil society reception organized by Lord Bird which brought together key stakeholders from business and civil society across the UK. The event was supported by the “Today4Tomorrow” campaign that seeks to raise awareness of the Bill’s ambition.

Professor Tilbury added, ‘It was pleasing to know UK parliamentarians are looking to Gibraltar as an example to follow.

Lord Bird, the founder of the ‘Big Issue’, introduced theUK Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill as a private member’s bill on 21 October 2019 and is campaigning for its enactment. He re-introduced the Bill on 8 January 2020, following the general election. The Bill which had its first reading on 8 January, and is due to have its second reading on 13 March, is being supported by MPs and Peers across the House.

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