Debate on the Address: Economy, business, health and education, 12 May 2021.

Today I had the pleasure of speaking in the first of five days of speeches that follow, and respond to, the Queen’s Speech. The speeches are organised into specific policy areas and I was keen to contribute to the debate addressing the economy and business. We must build back better. We must absolutely build back better together.

I am a committed advocate for new technologies, particularly in financial services. Fintech clearly has incredible potential and I am delighted to promote the role fintech can play in our efforts to build back better. But in building back better, it is absolutely essential that we ensure no one is left behind.

Three key areas are:

  • the need for a serious debate about and action towards the delivery of a distributed digital ID,
  • promoting fintech solutions to enable financial inclusion and
  • ensuring digital payments are accessible and available to all.

My speech in full:

My Lords, three words in the gracious speech, build back better. Three words, one alliteration but it must be the alliteration that underpins our economic recovery. Right now, rightly, our economic strategy is our vaccine strategy, likewise our vaccine strategy is our economic strategy, but build back better must be the bedrock as we move forward. I would like to touch on just three points to this end; firstly, digital ID, then fintech, then digital payments.

When it comes to digital ID would my noble friend the Minister agree that we have to have a system of distributed digital ID? My credentials in my hands. To manage, to deal with, to choose how it is deployed. Can I ask my noble friend the Minister what’s happening inside the DCMS (Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)? What greater acceleration can be put on our distributed digital ID strategy as a nation? Because it isn’t just about security, being safe in the cyber space, important though that is. There is a real economic opportunity to be had if as a nation we nail it when it comes to distributed digital id.

Similarly, for fintech would my noble friend the Minister agree we have a unique opportunity in the UK not just in London, great though the fintech sector is, but right across the nations and regions with the ten identified, flourishing fintech clusters.  Similarly, we need the UK to be the best place to start up, scale up, build and, yes potentially sell a fintech business. Would my noble friend also agree there is a key role for fintech when it comes to financial inclusion? Exclusion has dogged our nation for decades, fintech offers the opportunity to reconsider risk, lines of credit and all elements of financial services in a way that can deliver for both individuals and businesses alike.

Which takes me to payments. Much great work has been done on access to cash, not least Natalie Ceeney’s perfect review on this matter. I was also delighted that my noble friend the Minister Lord True helped with the passage of an amendment on cashback without requiring a purchase during the Financial Services Bill. Would my noble friend the Minister agree that the next logical step is to look at digital payments and ensure that digital payments are accessible and inclusive for all and that more analysis, more research, more review is required in this area?

My Lords, distributed digital ID, fintech, digital payments, but three stars in the constellation of new technologies we have in our well washed Covid recovering hands as we move forward. Would my noble friend agree that if we get it right it will be about human led talent and technology, human delivered inclusion and innovation, and yes, if we get it right we won’t just build back better but we must, we absolutely must, build back better together.

Lord Holmes of Richmond, Debate on the Address: Economy, business, health and education, House of Lords, 12 May 2021.
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