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Sat, 24 October 2020

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We must look to the long-term if we are to protect future generations’ interests

We must look to the long-term if we are to protect future generations’ interests
3 min read

A Future Generations Bill would revolutionise how the UK thinks and plans


It is vitally important for our children and our children’s children that Parliament and government consider the long-term. We need to plan and prepare for the consequences, benefits and risks of accelerating technological progress. We need to listen to the public’s call to protect the planet and deal with the climate crisis. And we need long-term planning to be able to tackle difficult social problems, such as crime, poverty and the provision of social care.

Yet short-termism is rife within the political space: immediate issues grab and hold our attention, much of it driven by the 24-hour news cycle. Ministers are incentivised to make immediately noticeable changes in the few years they have before the next election or reshuffle.

The APPG for Future Generations, created in 2017, is trying to change this.

The APPG now creates a space in Parliament for cross-party dialogue on long-term issues and on tackling political short-termism. It has just completed a series on future technologies and risks and has two main areas of focus at present.

Firstly, the APPG is launching an inquiry this week into “how policy decision making today considers the long-term.” The inquiry, which I will be chairing, will build off the work of the 2019 Lord’s Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Select Committee which stated that “successive governments have ... failed to plan for the long-term”.

There are some good examples of UK policy-making that take into account the long-term, and the inquiry will look to understand this best practice. We will also look at where there are gaps and challenges to long-term thinking and make policy recommendations.

We have our first evidence session on Tuesday 10 March (4pm–5pm, Room A in 1 Parliament Street) and you would be welcome to join me then. The session is on long-termism in the civil service and giving evidence will be Lord Kerslake, former head of the civil service; Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser; and Emma Norris, director of research at the Institute for Government.

The APPG is also looking at the possibilities of a Future Generations Bill. Outside of Westminster there are a number of approaches taken to ensure the voices of future generations are heard in politics. There is a Finnish Committee on Future Generations, a Hungarian Ombudsperson for Future Generations, and, closer to home, the Welsh Commissioner for Future Generations. The Welsh Commissioner was set up in 2015 through the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act.

Ministers are incentivised to make immediately noticeable changes in the few years they have before the next election or reshuffle. 

At our AGM last month the APPG agreed to officially support a campaign started by my co-chair, Lord Bird, for a UK Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill, based on the Welsh model. Such a bill will revolutionise how the UK thinks and plans for the long-term and will give future generations a voice in decision making.

This #TodayForTomorrow campaign has broad cross-party support. Seventy MPs have expressed support, including the prime minister and Jeremy Corbyn. A UK Future Generations Bill has been drafted and laid as a Private Members Bill in the House of Lords. Its second reading is this Friday 13 March.

If this work interests you, if you want to attend any of our events or support the bill, please get in touch with the secretariat at secretariat@appgfuturegenerations.com.

Bambos Charalambous is Labour MP for Enfield Southgate and chair of the APPG for Future Generations. An evidence session on long-termism in the civil service will take place in Room A of 1 Parliament Street on Tuesday 10 March between 4pm and 5pm.

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