Future Generations Act

25 January 2024

How Jane Davidson and her Welsh government colleagues brought about a political paradigm shift

The story of the development of the Well-being of Future Generations Act, which became law in Wales in 2015, is captured in Jane Davidson’s book #futuregen.

During our Annual Lecture event, Sir Michael Marmot said: “The Welsh Future Generations Act represents the kind of good governance I like to see. It shows a government thinking about the future, not just the date of the next election. It’s a brilliant piece of legislation and planning for the future.”

The act represented a historic leap forward for Wales towards prioritising sustainable development and the wellbeing of its citizens. This groundbreaking legislation marked a departure from traditional governance models, emphasising long-term thinking, collaboration, and the integration of economic, social, environmental and cultural factors to secure a brighter future.

Genesis of the act

The roots of the Well-being of Future Generations Act can be traced back to a growing recognition that traditional policy-making was often shortsighted and failed to adequately consider the broader impact of decisions on the wellbeing of current and future generations.

The Welsh Government, led by then-First Minister Carwyn Jones, envisaged a paradigm shift that would embed sustainable development principles into the heart of decision-making.

How a bill becomes an act in Wales

  1. Stage 1: drafting and consultation:
    • Proposed legislation is drafted, and consultations may be conducted with stakeholders, experts, and the public to gather input and perspectives.
  2. Stage 2: committee scrutiny:
    • The draft bill is submitted to one of the Senedd's committees for detailed examination.
    • Committees may hold evidence sessions, receive written submissions, and question experts and stakeholders to assess the merits and potential implications of the proposed legislation.
  3. Stage 3: Senedd approval - general principles:
    • The bill is then presented to the full Senedd for the first time, where MSs debate its general principles.
    • A vote is taken at the end of the debate. If the bill passes this stage, it moves to the next stage.
  4. Stage 4: detailed scrutiny in committee:
    • The bill is sent to another committee or the same committee for detailed examination of its provisions. This involves scrutinizing each clause and schedule of the bill.
    • Amendments can be proposed and debated during this stage.
  5. Stage 5: Senedd approval - amendments:
    • The bill returns to the full Senedd for a second consideration. MSs debate any amendments made during the detailed scrutiny stage.
    • A vote is taken, and if the bill is approved, it progresses to the next stage.
  6. Stage 6: final scrutiny:
    • The final version of the bill is scrutinized by a committee to ensure that all amendments have been correctly incorporated.
  7. Stage 7: Senedd approval - final stage:
    • The bill returns to the Senedd for its final consideration. MSs have the opportunity to debate any remaining issues or concerns.
    • A final vote is taken. If the bill is approved, it moves to the next step.
  8. Stage 8: Royal Assent:
    • The final step involves seeking Royal Assent from the monarch. Once granted, the bill becomes law and is known as an Act of the Senedd.

Key steps for the Well-being of Future Generations Act

  1. Consultation and engagement: The journey began with an extensive consultation process, engaging a wide array of stakeholders, including citizens, businesses, public bodies, and non-governmental organisations. This inclusive approach aimed to capture diverse perspectives and foster a sense of collective responsibility for the wellbeing of future generations.
  2. Development of wellbeing goals: Building on the insights gathered from consultations, the Welsh Government identified seven wellbeing goals: prosperity, resilience, health, equality, cohesive communities, vibrant culture, and a globally responsible Wales. These goals formed the foundation of the act, providing a holistic framework to guide decision-making across various sectors.
  3. Integrating sustainable development principles: At the core of the act lies the principle of sustainable development, requiring public bodies to consider the long-term impact of their decisions on people, the environment, and the economy. This integration of sustainability principles aimed to ensure that short-term gains did not compromise the well-being of future generations.
  4. Public Service Boards: The act established Public Service Boards (PSBs) as local entities responsible for enhancing the economic, social, environmental, and cultural wellbeing of their communities. Comprising representatives from various sectors, PSBs foster collaboration and coordinated action to address local challenges and opportunities.
  5. Wellbeing assessments and plans: Public bodies were mandated to conduct wellbeing assessments and develop wellbeing plans, aligning their strategies with the seven goals of the act. This process encourages a comprehensive evaluation of the potential impact of policies and projects on the wellbeing of present and future generations.
  6. Monitoring and reporting: To ensure accountability, the act introduced a rigorous monitoring and reporting framework. Public bodies are required to track and report their progress in achieving the wellbeing goals, fostering transparency and enabling continuous improvement.

Meet the author: Martin Thomas


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Prepared by GGI Development and Research LLP for the Good Governance Institute.

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