This might just be the most important Bill in recent times…
I’m not talking about your restaurant bill – although that’s important. We want chefs and front of house staff to be paid and treated fairly after all.
I’m not talking about Bill Clinton, Bill Shankly, Bill Bailey or any other famous Bill from the last 100 years.
I’m not even talking about the Agriculture Bill – although that is of course hugely significant…
I am referring instead to a Bill that has got relatively little coverage so far and is not specific to the food system, but that I believe it is profoundly important. The Bill in question is a Private Member’s Bill being championed by Lord Bird in the House of Lords. It is the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill. It follows the inspiring example set by Wales, which brought in its own Wellbeing of Future Generations Act in 2015.
Why is it important and why is now a good time to champion it? Friends of the Earth et al won their legal battle against a third runway at Heathrow because such a development would be in breach of the Government’s own climate change targets.
This, I hope, is the start of a trend we’ll see a lot more of – taking intergenerational justice seriously. The Government needs to take the impact on future generations into account in all important decisions, particularly relating to infrastructure and investment. I’d argue that our food and farming systems need to be at the forefront, not least because decisions about agriculture in particular are long-term in nature. We need to avoid being locked into on one particular pathway, if our food and farming are to flourish in the future. We need diverse and resilient food systems.
So, what is the Bill about? The summary of the Bill is:
“A Bill to make provision for requiring public bodies to act in pursuit of the United Kingdom’s environmental, social, economic and cultural wellbeing by meeting wellbeing objectives, publishing future generations impact assessments, accounting for preventative spending, and through public services contracts; to establish a Commissioner for Future Generations for the United Kingdom; to establish a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Future Generations; to require companies to consider the impact of their activities on the United Kingdom’s wellbeing; and for connected purposes.”
You can find out more and track the Bill’s progress here.
Whatever sector you’re in – food or otherwise – or if you’re simply an interested citizen, I urge you to get behind this Bill.
It’s time for the Government – and future Governments – to remove their short-term, tunnel vision glasses and instead look at things through a future generations lens. The planet needs us to. Our grandchildren, friends’ grandchildren and their children need us to.
We must give a voice to those that don’t (yet) have a voice in what our food systems are like. First and foremost, the wellbeing of future generations will be heavily shaped by decisions we make today. As a by-product, it will surely also help our own wellbeing if we can hand on heart say we have done all we can to leave the planet in a better state than we inherited it.
Dan Crossley, Executive Director, Food Ethics Council