UK government launches digital payments consultation – and omits cryptocurrencies

Philip Hammond (pictured) announces a public consultation into the future of cash and digital payments in the UK. But cryptocurrency isn’t mentioned once…

Earlier this month, the Bank of England governor Mark Carney struck a very cautious note when discussing cryptocurrency and its place in the British economy. Now though, the UK government appears to have ignored the area altogether, despite launching a public consultation into the role of cash and digital payments in the new economy.

The consultation was announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in his Spring Statement today, and further details were instantly posted to the UK government website.

Confirming that the consultation will run until 5th June 2018, the description of the consultation, published by HM Treasury, reads:

To better understand the role of cash and digital payments in the new economy, the government has launched a call for evidence. We want to make sure that our economy is fit for the future and keeps pace with changes in the ways that people pay for goods and services.

This call for evidence represents an important step in the discussion about cash and digital payments in the new economy, and how the transition from cash to digital payments impacts on different sectors, different regions and different demographics. It seeks to gather evidence to inform that debate, by exploring how the government can support digital payments and ensure that the ability to pay by cash is available for those who need it, whilst cracking down on the minority who use cash to evade tax and launder money. It is seeking both domestic and international evidence of what the government can and should do in this area.

The document, that can be downloaded here, nonetheless fails to mention cryptocurrency at all, focusing instead on contactless, coin supply, digital payments and “supporting the delivery of a revamped payments architecture”.

Given Mark Carney’s recent speech, it’s little surprise that the government is doubling down on supporting more traditional cash and payments methods. But also, the Bank Of England is at least investigating and working with crypto and blockchain technology. HM Treasury doesn’t mention it at all.

Ironically, Hammond had talked in his speech about “embracing technological change”. The new consultation suggests that intent only goes so far for the moment.

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