Politics is rife with short-termism driven by the next election cycle and the latest tweetstorm. Given this harsh reality, what can we do to encourage members of the public, parliament and policymakers to consider the long-term effects of new legislation?
Examining this situation All Parliamentary Party Groups for Future Generations (APPG) decided to research new ways of working, one that’s both radical and simple.
In our unique position as a cross-party group, APPG for Future Generations is committed to having meaningful conversations without being bogged down in political point scoring. And to provide impartial and independent briefings to our members, who come from all sides of the political divide.
A new APPG initiative
That is where our newest initiative, Future Check, comes in.
Future Check, which makes use of the School of International Future’s sophisticated Intergenerational Fairness Assessment tool, is a citizen-led service.
Future Check assessments are conducted by volunteers on live pieces of legislation which are passing through Parliament and identified by us at APPG for Future Generations as being a top priority. To ensure rigour, Future Check uses a structured methodology across over 40 impact areas which is then reviewed by at least one other volunteer before being reported by the APPG to parliamentarians and the public.
A Future Check cannot guarantee to find all of the potential consequences of a policy or make a final judgement of whether the policy is fair or unfair to people now and in the future. But it can highlight issues that might not be visible at first glance and create conversations about the future we want to shape through our actions today. Alongside impacts and policy gaps, the Future Check outlines questions and amendments that Parliamentarians may use to increase the long-term focus of the proposed.
Looking out for future generations
We’ve already conducted assessments on five pieces of legislation, including the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the Environmental Bill and the Telecommunications Bill. Future Check sets out the positive aspects of the bills and the negatives. The tool also gives clarity and suggests amendments taking future generations’ views into account. Here’s a question, rising from Future Check, for the Justice Department concerning the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
“To ask the Secretary of State to confirm whether he used standard procedures set out in the government’s Green Book to compare the potential short-term disruption caused by a demonstration against long-term benefits of the rights to protest?”
Positive parliamentary reactions
Initial feedback for Future Check has been positive from all sides. We have already received endorsements from our Chair, Labour frontbench Minister Bambos Charalambous who thinks ‘it’s great’ and ‘we should be doing this’ as well as the Vice-Chair, Simon Fell MP, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Barrow and Furness, who described Future Check as ‘excellent’.
For the citizens doing the assessments, their experience has also been positive. Phil White, a volunteer described how:
“It was great to be involved in the early development of ‘Future Check’, developing and piloting a methodology for analysing proposed legislation and policy through the eyes of future generations. Working through parliamentary bills using this methodology gave me a good understanding of the likely impact(s) on future generations. Since then I have discussed the outputs with another body I am involved with [99% Organisation], who are now considering a similar approach. Based on my experience of working on this project, I believe that this methodology can provide a valuable tool to many progressive organisations.”
Given these endorsements, we are ambitious for this project. We are seeking to roll out Future Check so that we have a trained pool of expert assessors able to conduct detailed impact assessments on legislation of high potential impact on future generations. Simultaneously, we want to scale up training and resources for citizen volunteers to conduct diagnostic assessments, and connect the findings to different parts of the parliamentary process; whether that be through backbench MP questions or legislative scrutiny in Select Committees.
In a post-Covid world, we have learnt the critical importance of ensuring policy is fireproofed, rather than always firefighting. And with ever more stark reminders of the impending climate emergency, we are working to ensure that our legislation and institutions work for future generations.
Natasha Brian provides the Secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Future Generations.
To volunteer to help do Future Check assessments at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read more about SOIF’s Framework for Intergenerational Fairness click here.