Cryptoassets: Regulation — [Christina Rees in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:04 am on 7th September 2022.

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Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley 10:04 am, 7th September 2022

I thank the hon. Member for her intervention and for all the hard work she is doing on this subject. She is right: we need to get these business regulated more quickly. We cannot rest on our laurels; we need to get things going, although that applies to all business, whether crypto or not. The UK needs to encourage more businesses to establish themselves more quickly, and we should have the regulations in place to make the UK accessible.

This new Government must look at increasing the level of public education around cryptocurrencies. The most common crypto-related Google search query is, “What is cryptocurrency?” That is nearly five times more common than any other. The public—from the schoolyard to the retirement home—need to be educated about the risks and rewards of this new financial asset. As with all new technology or financial tools, there clearly are risks. According to Action Fraud, nearly £150 million was scammed and stolen through crypto-related fraud last year. Educating people is the only way to ensure sensible decisions.

That being said, there are significant rewards to be gained from crypto, including instant free transactions, which will help businesses deal internationally. Meanwhile Britons will be able to transact in new ways that were previously impossible: they will be able to pay their energy bills per unit used, have their hourly wages paid on the hour or have increased privacy when paying for goods and services. Britons must be shown that the benefits are there if they approach crypto sensibly, but they must also know the risks.

That being said, given that crypto ownership is already on the rise, we cannot rely on education alone. The estimates of how many Britons own some form of cryptoassets range from 5% up to 20%, with that number clearly increasing year on year. As well as educating the public, we must rethink the regulator’s approach to cryptocurrencies. As I mentioned, there are serious risks involved in investing in crypto, even with the so-called stablecoins, as we saw with the rapid decline of Terra earlier this year. However, the current system serves only to suppress British businesses, without offering enough protection to customers and consumers.