Queen’s Speech – Debate (2nd Day) | Lords debates

My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in this adjourned debate on the gracious Speech. In doing so, I declare my interests in technology as set out in the register. I congratulate our two maiden speakers and the valedictory speaker, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth. I sat behind him when he came in and I sit behind him as he departs. What I have learned, not least from the right reverend Prelate, is that we all do well when we put on our armour of light.

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 shall touch on just three points to this end—digital ID, fintech and digital payments.

When it comes to digital ID, does my noble friend agree that we have to have a system of distributed digital ID—my credentials in my hand to manage, to deal with, to choose how to deploy? What is happening inside DCMS? What greater acceleration can be put on our digital ID strategy as a nation? Because it is not just about security, being safe in cyberspace, 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, does my noble friend agree that we have a unique opportunity in the United Kingdom, not just in London, great though the fintech sector is, but right across the nations and regions, with the 10 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. Does he also agree that 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 individuals and businesses alike.

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

Distributed digital ID, fintech and digital payments are but three stars in the constellation of new technologies we have in our well-washed, Covid-recovering hands as we move forward. Does 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 that, yes, if we get it right, we will not just build back better, but we must, we absolutely must, build back better together?

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