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Policy-making: Future Generations

Volume 799: debated on Tuesday 1 October 2019


Tabled by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the interests of future generations are taken into account at every level of government policy-making and, if so, how.

In the absence of my noble friend Lord Bird, who cannot be here, I ask the Question in his name on the Order Paper.

My Lords, accounting for the interests of future generations is a core consideration within the Government’s policy-making. The Government require that all programmes, projects and policies demonstrate the costs, benefits and risks associated with the intervention over its whole lifetime, in line with the government Green Book. This includes the impact on future generations. Where the possible effects of an intervention being examined as part of an appraisal are long term and involve very substantial or irreversible wealth transfers between generations, The Green Book sets out the analysis that is required to estimate the long-term impact of the intervention.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister, who has vast experience in this area. But I ask whether the Government recognise that the budgetary cuts year on year on year have resulted in a marked reduction in family support and preventive services, especially for young people. Does she accept that there is a great deal of catching up to be done, which must involve the contribution of every government department, as is happening in Wales? How will the Government ensure that every department plays a part in this?

I would be foolish to say that we have not got some catching up to do, but I assure all noble Lords that we wish to work hard to achieve this. In terms of cross-government working, I have been in the department only a short while, and I have met with people in other government departments to talk about things that we can do together to make the impact better. The principle is well understood, and I assure all noble Lords that we are completely committed to making sure that the resources we have are deployed well for the benefit of all generations.

My Lords, the Minister referred to The Green Book as being the means by which the Government decide how to adjudicate between the interests of different generations. But The Green Book, which is a Treasury document, sets out the tool for analysing or comparing policy objectives using things like net present social value or social time preference rates; you can work out how to judge those transfers. Will the Government publish the results of those analyses in the impact assessment along with everything else? More importantly, the young people I saw in Durham on the climate strike were convinced that we are not prioritising their interests. What tools can the Government use to assess damage done to the climate and to the planet—although, of course, there is no planet against which we can compare it?

Well, there is an exam question! On the question of publishing the impact assessment, I will go back and ask my boss. Do not think that that is a cop-out; I do not actually know. I will ask my boss and then write to the noble Baroness, and everybody will receive a copy of his response through the Library.

On climate change, I think that we have done really well to be the first country to legislate for long-term climate targets. Between 1990 and 2017 we reduced emissions by 42%, so we are serious about this. I hope that the efforts of young people in this respect will help them realise that they are having a great impact on the activities of the Government to make that happen.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that this Question has accountability to this and future generations at its core? Is there anybody in No. 10 who has any respect for our constitution and parliamentary democracy, let alone has made any assessment of the importance of our history in this respect? My ancestor, Jonathan Trelawny, was one of the seven bishops who defied James II’s royal prerogative and then precipitated the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Does the noble Baroness accept that the Executive are answerable and accountable to Parliament, not the other way around? Has that not been the central, core constitutional principle for 330 years? As this is such a minority Government—

As this is a minority Government and the Prime Minister represents only a tiny fraction of that minority, surely the task he refers to is representing what Parliament is saying, rather than what he wants to do.

The phrase “something vexes thee” comes to mind. The noble Lord is trying to get me into the territory of another subject that I do not want to get into today; I want to stick to what we are discussing. But I do not think there is any doubt that everybody understands about accountability. I do not think I can add anything, and speak on behalf of No. 10, other than to say that I am convinced that they understand that.

My Lords, we have all heard about the bank of mum and dad, but in considering the future of social care policy is my noble friend aware that we will rapidly move to the bank of son and daughter? When can we expect the Government to produce a response to the committee of this House’s report on social care, or indeed the long-promised Green Paper?

I understand about the bank of mum and dad—and about the bank of auntie, from which deposits are drawn on a regular basis. I understand the point my noble friend is making; it is a very important issue that impacts greatly on those who need social care now. Of course, coming future generations will want to know how this is all going to be done. I do not know about the timing of the documents, but I will try to find out and write to my noble friend.

My Lords, when the Government are criticised over the lack of music in schools and on syllabuses, they point to the success of the music hubs. I salute that success, but these hubs are now financially at risk, with future funding not confirmed even for next year. Will the Minister confirm that funding will continue, and increase to cover inflation and increased costs, thus preventing the legs being cut from under music education in this country and, indeed, the Government’s own flagship?

I thank the noble Lord for his question. I do not want to seem flippant, but I do have not have my chequebook with me today, so I do not think I can help him there. Again, this is something I will need to find out about, but the point he raises about the importance of music is well understood.