Cryptoassets: Regulation — [Christina Rees in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:43 am on 7th September 2022.

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Photo of Richard Fuller Richard Fuller The Economic Secretary to the Treasury 10:43 am, 7th September 2022

The hon. Lady is right to mention the importance of bringing people together. I will refer to that. May I also take the opportunity to re-emphasise the work that her APPG is currently doing on regulation for consumer protection in this space? There are multiple participants and interests, so I echo her point.

At the forefront of this is something that we have talked a lot about when it comes to the culture. We have highly driven entrepreneurs with great skills. Having their teams in the UK enables us to build the wealth and experience that can power further discoveries and growth in a constructive way.

As is always the case with innovation, there are risks that need to be managed. For one, cryptoassets can be used to hide ill-gotten gains through corruption or organised crime. Since January 2020, cryptoasset firms operating in the UK have been subject to the money laundering regulations. We recently brought forward legislation to implement the financial action taskforce travel rule for the transfer of cryptoassets.

Cryptoasset firms must conduct customer due diligence checks, just as banks do, including sanctions screenings. Through the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill, we will give law enforcement new powers to seize and recover cryptoassets. As would be expected of a global financial centre, we will put a very robust system in place, and will never compromise on our high standards. That was the key point made by the SNP spokesman, Peter Grant.

Separately, there are legitimate concerns, highlighted by the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire and echoed by my hon. Friend Alexander Stafford, about the energy intensiveness in the process of creating some types of cryptoassets. As a global centre for green finance, we are already looking closely at energy usage associated with certain crypto technologies, and I will take away the point the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire made about carbon neutral data centres regulation.

We have also said that we will seek to protect consumers by legislating to bring certain cryptoassets into the scope of financial promotions regulation, because it is essential that investors understand the risks they are taking and that there is more transparency from firms. I know that some firms are concerned about the way in which this regime might be implemented, to the possible detriment of UK firms. We are looking very seriously at that issue.

I say in reply to the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead that the UK’s approach on a lot to do with financial services is to have an agile system that relies robustly on the regulators to write their rules as things are brought within the regulatory perimeter. That underpins our approach. It underpins the work in the new Financial Services and Markets Bill, and that is distinct from the perhaps more legalistic approach of the European Union trying to define in statute right from the start what the regulations should be. In the United Kingdom we trust regulators to work at speed and effectively to write the rule books that are right at that point in time.