Adam Afriyie
MP for Windsor
Blockchains: The most important thing you’ve never heard of

You could be forgiven for having never heard of a “blockchain”. When I raised the issue of blockchains in Parliament it was the first time the word had been recorded in the Hansard record of parliamentary debate. It hasn’t been mentioned again.

Yet at tech events and forums discussion is ablaze with the seemingly limitless possibilities of blockchains, with some claiming they will transform the internet in the same way that the combustion engine revolutionized road travel. But what is this revolutionary new technology?

At its most basic: blockchains are a method of storing data. The advantage of doing so in a blockchain is that it is more secure, almost impossible to hack and cheaper to operate than a conventional database.

Traditionally data has been stored on a single central computer and people can alter that data only by going through a third party who has the power to change it. The data on a blockchain, however, is stored on every computer connected to the service and gets updated automatically without a central arbiter.

When someone wants to update or input new data, they first alter the record on their own computer and subsequently that amendment is verified by the other computers connected to the blockchain. The update is only confirmed and locked into the blockchain when 51% of the computers have verified it. Thus it is almost impossible for someone to counterfeit a record unless they controlled 51% of the computers on the blockchain.

Even if the technology behind blockchains is prohibitively complex and nerdy, its’ potential is not. Blockchains dissolve bureaucracy and shred red tape, a perennial problem in the public sector.

Virtually all of today’s digital infrastructure could be improved in theory with a secure blockchain whether it’s cataloguing business records, registering car ownership or, an idea that recently won an award from the Bank of England, allocating blood in the NHS Blood Supply Chain System more effectively.  Indeed if something is not currently undertaken because it is considered too complicated, such as interoperable electronic health records, a secure blockchain would have the power to enable it.

The question is whether they can be used without compromising security. I believe we would do well to have a parliamentary debate on blockchains because the Government needs to recognise the power of blockchains to, not only, improve public services at a reduced cost to taxpayers but to create more powerful citizens in a smaller and more decentralised state.

The commercial opportunities of embracing the power of blockchain technology would not only give a big boost to Britain’s vibrant technology sector but our exports would also lay the foundations to aid developing nations’ digital infrastructure.

Windsor MP welcomes “massive” improvement in state schools

A new report released by the Good Schools Guide has revealed that the performance of state schools has increased “massively” over the last three decades.

The proportion of state schools in the top 1,200 list has increased from 48 in 1986 to 300 in 2016 – a sixfold increase in thirty years.

Lord Lucas, who edits the advisory guide, has said that he expects many independent schools to either turn into government free schools or close altogether due to the strong quality of local state schools.

The MP for the Windsor constituency, Adam Afriyie welcomed the figures:

“As someone who got into politics in the first place to improve social mobility this is simply fantastic news. Improving state schools is the silver bullet to solving the issue of social mobility in this country.

“It confirms that free schools are helping to lift standards across the spectrum.

Widespread confidence in the Conservatives

A new poll by the Edelman Trust shows a solid vote of confidence in this Conservative government and a recognition of how divided left-leaning Labour has become.

Just 18% trust Jeremy Corbyn to do what is right, compared to 33% who felt the same way about Miliband in 2014. Moreover, 40% of the public trust David Cameron to do the right thing, up from 33% in 2014.

This builds on a YouGov poll from just before the New Year that showed that people recognise that the Conservatives are the only party that can be trusted with the economy. 41% said that they trusted the Conservative Party the most to handle the economy, with Labour on a distant 18%. This 23% lead is higher than any lead we had in the last Parliament. Even in Scotland the Conservative Party are recognised as being the best party to handle the economy. Let’s hope that this translates into votes at the Holyrood elections later this year.

These figures are an encouraging sign that people are recognising the good work that Conservatives are doing in cutting Labour’s overspending, reducing the deficit, lowering unemployment and reforming welfare and education. Given the fantastic employment figures that we have seen in the past few years it’s also unsurprising that the same poll shows that the Conservatives are recognised as being the best party to deal with unemployment.

The poll also shows that the public sees Labour as swinging hard to the left. David Cameron is perceived as a moderate, centre-right politician, whereas Corbyn is registered as being nearly twice as far from the political centre, or indeed the Labour Party!

Irrespective of public perceptions, there remains more work to be done in government. So let’s continue the important work of mending the economy to reward this trust and show that only the Conservatives can deliver strong growth, a budget surplus and excellent public services.

 

Windsor MP welcomes Government report on distributed ledgers

The Windsor MP welcomes the new report by the Government Office for Science on distributed ledgers, also known as blockchains.

Distributed ledgers are a method of recording information on a decentralised database. Proponents of distributed ledger claim that they are more secure than traditional ways of storing data and that they also cost less due to the fact that they strip away bureaucracy and shred red tape.

Distributed ledgers offer many varied new uses in the public sector, such as collecting taxes more effectively, giving the public access to their health records and verifying property and business records more securely.

The report makes a number of recommendations to the Government with the objective of exploring their potential use in both the public and private sectors.

Adam Afriyie, Windsor’s MP, commented:

“Blockchains are one of the most exciting technology developments in recent years. As a former IT entrepreneur I look forward to the Government’s response to this report and soon hope to see pilots and trials of blockchains in the public sector.

“The potential savings to taxpayers with more efficient public services are enormous.

“Blockchains are secure but they are not cybercrime free so we must be proceed with caution. The creation of a potentially massive database containing everyone’s information could be like painting a giant target on the public sector for cyber criminals to aim at.

“In parliament we also need to consider the issues around Blockchains and I hope to secure a debate in the forthcoming months so MPs can engage with this exciting new topic.

“Let’s make 2016 the year that blockchains stopped being the sole domain of tech geeks and entered the public space and the political arena.”

 

ENDS

Note to editors

  1. Adam Afriyie has a strong background and interest in science, technology and innovation due to his entrepreneurial background in the IT sector and a variety of posts he has held and/or currently holds, including Shadow Minister for Science, Chairman of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) and President of the Conservative Technology Forum (CTF).
  2. This press release is based on a report released by the Government Office for Science that can be found here.

 

Windsor MP welcomes Government progress on self-driving cars

The Windsor MP has discovered through a Parliamentary Question that the Government has made progress on its plans to introduce self-driving cars to UK roads.

Last year the Government announced that it was backing a pathfinder to assess the technological and societal impact of driverless pods in Milton Keynes.

The Government has supported a number of projects in the UK, including UKAutodrive, Venturer and GATEway in order to deliver more precise autonomous systems and examine the intermediate steps necessary to integrate self-driving cars into modern Britain.

The question follows a Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week in which stories about driverless cars in exhibits from Ford, Audi and even Blackberry featured heavily in the news headlines.

Adam Afriyie, Windsor’s MP, commented:

“Self-driving cars are one of the most exciting inventions of the past few decades. As the technology goes from strength to strength we can expect to see more and more self-driving cars on our roads in the coming decades which have the potential to significantly improve road safety and reduce congestion.

“A forward-looking government will embrace this kind of transformative technology and I’m delighted that the Government both recognises the need for Britain to prepare for this exciting but disruptive new technology and safely allow the private sector to lead the way.

“With the Conservatives we can look forward to a brighter future in which we prioritise backing the technologies of the future rather than propping up the technologies of the past.

“Cars were once unaffordable to most people but soon everyone will be able to enjoy the safety of relatively inexpensive driverless cars with an inbuilt “chauffeur” that lets them work or relax on route.

“The benefits to business efficiency and people’s quality of life will be life-changing.

“This is yet another example of the positive benefits technology and the free market can bring to business efficiency, people’s quality of life and safety on the road.”

ENDS

Note to editors

  1. Adam Afriyie has a strong background and interest in science, technology and innovation due to his entrepreneurial background in the IT sector and a variety of posts he has held and/or currently holds, including Shadow Minister for Science, President of the Conservative Technology Forum (CTF) and Chairman of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST).