Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill [HL] Debate

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Department: Cabinet Office

Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill [HL]

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
2nd reading
Friday 25th June 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill [HL] 2021-22 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I draw attention to my entry in the register of interests.

When Gro Harlem Brundtland, on behalf of the World Commission on Environment and Development, published her ground-breaking report in 1987, she set out the definition of “sustainable development” that has become standard in the decades since. That is, that we should be meeting

“the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

I am delighted to see that definition used in the Bill placed in front of your Lordships’ House today, even if I am disappointed that, in the 34 years since, that definition and purpose have not been standard practice for Governments across the world, not least here in the United Kingdom.

There have been hundreds of summits, photo calls and agreements across those 34 years. The most recent, of course, were the 2015 sustainable development goals, agreed by the United Nations and not only signed up to by the United Kingdom but, in many ways, created by the two committees that were, in one case, chaired by our Prime Minister, David Cameron, and in the other, led and in many ways directed by the then Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening.

Unfortunately, in the aftermath of that agreement in 2015, the Government made an almost conscious decision to deprioritise the goals here at home. They have never been located properly in the Cabinet Office as universal goals that can help shape, inform and direct government policy and help us measure progress. Although there has been some progress elsewhere in our international spending, despite the hard work of the noble Lord, Lord Bates, the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, in his current position, and a number of other Ministers over the years, the Government have never put those sustainable development goals right at the heart of their policy.

So I welcome this Bill. I am not absolutely convinced of the need for legislation but I look forward to the debates on it. I want to see some clarification on the relationship with the devolved Governments and the devolved nations, and I want to explore more the definitions and the way in which they would be implemented. If we can debate this Bill in the same positive manner and with the passion shown by the noble Lord, Lord Bird—not just in his presentation today but in his lifetime of commitment to tackling poverty and disadvantage in this country—we will provide a good service as a second Chamber. I look forward to those debates. I hope that we will get a chance to look in detail at the provisions that are put forward and that, at the core of the debates, we will look to the future—particularly to children, who, I am pleased to see, are given priority in the Bill and in the deliberations that are going ahead now.