Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill [HL] Debate

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Department: Cabinet Office

Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill [HL]

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Excerpts
2nd reading
Friday 25th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill [HL] 2021-22 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)
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My Lords, I support the principles of the Bill in the name of my noble friend Lord Bird, while questioning the extent of detail which could constrain this and future Governments in policy development. Any Government have a responsibility to both current populations and future generations. Many of the Bills being considered in this parliamentary Session are associated with trying to ensure that future generations survive and thrive in the UK—for example, the Environment Bill, referred to by many noble Lords.

The pandemic has sent a shock of seismic proportions globally, without sufficient preparedness even in G7 countries. An aim of the Bill is to enshrine in law a

“shift to a longer-term, preventative approach to policymaking”,

which would involve adopting new methods of risk analysis, planning and fiscal policy to ensure that future generations are respected and taken into account.

The need to improve the well-being of all our citizens remains a paramount responsibility of all Governments and is amply illustrated through the successful Covid vaccination programme. I fully support the concepts outlined in Part 2, but suggest that some elements are very prescriptive. Clause 4 in Part 2 contains such processes, which are the reverse of the intention of the Bill and could result in convoluted, time-consuming cycles of repetitive consultation, slowing down well-being policy-making.

While supporting the concept of establishing a future generations commission for the UK, Clause 4 makes no mention of England. Surely UK-level discussions need to involve all four countries and younger people, as was so ably mentioned by other noble Baronesses.

The vital issue that we face is that young people want and need to be able to access health promotion and ill-health services digitally, face-to-face and sometimes in hospital. However, I must disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Bird. We did the right thing in shutting the large mental hospitals but we did the wrong thing in not providing alternative suitable accommodation. They need high-quality education, safe and secure housing, and secure employment opportunities but, as the noble Lord said, long-term planning must involve listening and devising policies based on citizens’ stated desires coupled with scientific data.

Young people today will be paying off the debt associated with the costs of the pandemic for 50 years, if not a century. Unlike former generations, those going into higher education have student loans to redeem. The requirement to undertake future generations impact assessments, as outlined in Part 2 Section 11, is paramount. In summary, I hope that we can work to revise and simplify the Bill to enable nimble policy development, while fully embracing the best evidence relating to the future well-being of our population.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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Her connection issues having been resolved, I call the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud.