Eddie Hughes, a member of the UK parliament and outspoken promoter of blockchain and cryptocurrency, has again raised eyebrows among his more conservative peers with pro-Bitcoin declarations.
Hughes has suggested that citizens should be given the option to pay their council taxed to local authorities in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ether. Council tax is levied monthly on households in the UK to fund local services, introduced in 1993 to replace the poll tax which caused riots in some parts of Britain due to its unpopularity. It is British householders’ largest annual payment to government apart from income taxes.
Hughes argues that if people can donate to charity using Bitcoin, they should also be able to pay bills in the same way, including monthly or quarterly utilities payments as is done in some parts of Australia after the federal government there announced that welfare payments could now be delivered over blockchain through its Centrelink system. The Australian Department of Health is now actively using blockchain for the storage of medical research records. The MP argued that this integration of cryptocurrency into such areas needs to happen in the UK:
“Only recently I met with the RNLI [Royal National Lifeboat Institution] which is now accepting charitable donations through cryptocurrency – if we can do that, what’s to stop us being able to pay council tax and other bills with Bitcoin?”
Earlier this year, Hughes released a paper on blockchain published by FREER, an initiative from the country’s Institute of Economic Affairs for promoting freedom in the economy and society. His report, ‘Unlocking Blockchain‘, advocated a public-facing chief blockchain officer to oversee the UK’s blockchain strategy.
He also made recommendations in his report urging Theresa May’s government to focus more readily on blockchain technologies, citing social freedom, increasing efficiency and the rebuilding of societal trust as the main areas of its use in governance. The report also suggested that a long-term target of a 1% efficiency saving using blockchain tech should become its aim over the next year, saving up to GBP 8 billion on the 2017/18 budget.
UK MPs have become increasingly vocal on cryptocurrency and bitcoin. Another MP, Matt Hancock, delivered a speech to the Law Society earlier this year asserting that blockchain technology will have a “monumental impact” on people’s lives in the future. He spoke of “vast areas of public life” that he predicted blockchain would transform: the financial sector, government services, and laws and regulation.
MP Stephen Hammond, who joined the advisory board of cryptocurrency exchange IronX, commented:
“The only way cryptocurrencies will be trusted and become accepted in the traditional business environment is through regulation… This includes governments, policymakers, regulators and the financial services industry. Governments cannot afford to be ambiguous in their stance and need to engage with the industry.”
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