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Written Statement - Future Generations Bill - Better Choices for a Better Future

Jeff Cuthbert, AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty

Following the First Minister’s legislative statement on 16 July I want to provide further information on our commitment to legislate to make sustainable development the central organising principle of the devolved public service in Wales and to create an independent body. 

The First Minister announced that the working title for this Bill will now be the Future Generations Bill. I believe this change will help us better communicate its purpose and foster greater cross-sectoral involvement in how we use legislation to ensure that the decisions of today are better for the long term. 

Our communities form the heart of our nation and culture and the purpose of the Future Generations Bill is to future-proof them, ensuring they and the people who live in them are protected from pressures that threaten their viability and survival.  This means that in meeting pressing short term needs such as mitigating the impact of economic and fiscal pressures and creating jobs and growth, that organisations make every effort to safeguard the long term interests of the people of Wales, addressing intergenerational challenges such as health inequalities, raising skills, and mitigating the impact of climate change. 

Our aim is to develop strong, cohesive communities, which flourish, and in which families can have a decent standard of living now and foresee the same for their children and grandchildren. This includes the environment that we pass on to future generations. 

In 2012 we consulted on a White Paper on our proposals to legislate to put sustainable development at the heart of the Welsh Government and organisations delivering public services in Wales. Our stakeholders have provided constructive and detailed responses to our proposals and we want to ensure that we get this right, and work through some of the areas that were raised in the consultation. As set out by the First Minister the Bill will now be introduced in Summer 2014.  

Organisations across Wales play an important role in improving the long term future of Wales. This Bill focuses on the role that organisations delivering public services across Wales can play. We want to change fundamentally how big decisions are made across the Welsh public service. It is about ensuring better choices are made that improve the wellbeing of Wales now and for the future. 

Our proposal is to legislate to provide a clear focus on the challenges the public service is seeking to address, and ensure that decisions recognise the connections between social justice, economic prosperity and the management of natural resources, both now and over the long term. 

Tackling poverty is an essential requirement for sustainable development. Poverty costs us as a nation. Tackling poverty is a key priority for the Welsh Government because we understand that poverty impacts on individuals and families, our communities and the economy. Communities can’t deal with these problems alone so this Bill will empower public services to address the challenges they face in a more effective way. We have to take an approach which brings all parts of government and all our partners together in new ways to take responsibility. There is no alternative way that we can make a serious impact while working with fewer resources overall. 

We are not alone in grappling with these issues. We have looked at existing legislation across the world and we know that our Bill can provide a useful example for those abroad.  Smaller countries, like Wales, can lead the way and set examples of how to create sustainable places and approaches. In Wales, we now have the opportunity to further demonstrate this by creating our own ground-breaking legislation. 

The Bill is not a stand alone measure but sits within a range of other activities.  

Our Tackling Poverty Action Plan shows we are choosing a different path to the UK government to bring together all Welsh Government can do to improve the lives of people living in poverty – by co-ordinating activity across departments and joining up policy so that tackling poverty, whether in education, health or local government, is central.

Our approach to housing means we are not only working to improve the supply, quality and support services but considering how these improvements can  improve health outcomes and community sustainability, contribute to economic recovery through its impact on the construction and manufacturing sectors, can lead regeneration and also create local employment and training opportunities . It also contributes to long term environmental benefits through consideration of materials and energy efficiency – building more resilient and low-carbon sustainable homes. 

It is important that there is a national conversation on the challenges our communities face.  

I will be discussing with the Commissioner for Sustainable Futures what he may do to help us kick-start this conversation and get a wide cross-section of the public engaged.