Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill [HL] – Second Reading | Lords debates

My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in this Second Reading. In doing so, I declare my technology interests as set out in the register. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bird, on bringing the Bill and on the manner in which he introduced it.

How fortunate the House is also to have the perfect Minister to respond at the Dispatch Box to the debate, not only through his role at the Cabinet Office but through his previous chairmanship of the Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee, on which I was so privileged to serve. To that end, does my noble friend the Minister agree that the six conclusions that we set out when we published our report in April 2019 still ring true? Further, the future is now and that future is digital. Does he agree that we need to do everything to understand how to have an inclusive digital future—a digital economy and society—in which everybody, now and for future generations, is able to fully participate?

Property is a huge issue to consider. Quantitative easing and other measures have had such a deleterious effect. Does my noble friend agree that for many young people, the property ladder is largely out of rungs? Similarly, pensions as a cast-iron guarantee for retirement have been massively misunderstood in recent years. They have now been raided in terms of the top-end provision and largely wrung out.

I turn to life itself. How can it be that future generations may suffer a lower life expectancy than we will enjoy? To that end, I largely agree with the comments of my noble friends Lord Moynihan and Lord McColl.

Is it time for us to reconsider and reinvigorate the stellar strength of our stewardship of this brilliant, bright blue world, spinning in infinite space? Covid has shown us so much: grandparents and parents taken well before their time, and young people’s futures so severely scarred and in need of desperate repair. We should not take from that the differential impacts; we should look at how we address them but the lesson is surely that we are all in this together. If we can grasp that sense of inclusion for today, perhaps

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow”

does not need to creep in at “petty pace” but can come confidently, collectively and connectively into that digitally enabled, inclusive dawn.

As other noble Lords have said, there is much we cannot know about the future but there is much that we can. The most important thing that we can know is this: the future is in our hands. It is in all of our hands.