MP for Windsor
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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?

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 reaction 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).

 

Digital currencies and the future of financial innovation

Among financial and techie communities, digital currencies (DC), such as bitcoin, have become the exciting development to watch.

It’s exciting because it could transform the way we transfer money in the UK. Bitcoin payments are approved via a network of other users, who verify them. Payments are instantaneous and completely transparent because a record of every single transaction is stored on users’ computers in something called the “blockchain ledger”. There is no central bank involved, no credit card fees and no lengthy waits for the money to be wired through.

Many people recognise the huge benefits and implications of this technology. Remittances, online payments, contract clearing, multi-person derivatives and crowdfunding could all be made significantly cheaper, more transparent and more efficient using digital currencies. Not to mention the wider applications for the technology such as electronic voting.

And yet, it is not being widely discussed by politicians in the UK. That’s why I was delighted to be invited to participate in a ResPublica debate entitled “Digital Currencies: Will regulation stifle innovation?” along with Steve Baker, Conservative MP for Wycombe.

My main concern is that as it stands, DC businesses can’t set up a bank account. The reason is two-fold: a regulatory environment that puts banks off dealing with these businesses, who they fear could be prone to money-laundering schemes or other crime. The second is that banks see bitcoin as a threat to their existence and, dare I say it, may want to hold up development until the banks themselves can profit from digital currency technology.

A possible solution to this hurdle is allowing bitcoin exchanges, wallets, vaults and other businesses to opt in to existing financial regulations such as those that already cover Money Service Businesses (MSBs). This would give these businesses a sense of legitimacy and recognition, allowing them to operate within a legally viable framework.

The responsibility must then lie with the digital currency industry to develop their own technical and financial standards that build trust in their businesses and help customers to feel that their investments are going to be handled wisely and securely. Banks would soon realise that if they enter this market first, the possible rewards are immense.

Once we get to that point, the remaining criticisms of digital currencies such as price volatility and financial crime will disappear.

And with the take-up of digital currency technology, the UK can position itself as the global centre of fintech innovation, allowing businesses to set up, pay taxes, employ staff, make profits and provide products that those of us who want an alternative to conventional banking can use.

But if we fail to act in the near future countries like Australia, Canada and the USA can steal a march on the UK and benefit from the investment that we should be fighting for.

Thankfully, the Chancellor and the UK Treasury recognise the opportunities. I would urge them to recognise and enable digital currencies sooner rather than later so that our doors are fully open to welcome innovative fintech businesses searching for a home.