Westminster last night introduced a Bill that could see official government documents one day be maintained by the technology behind cryptocurrency.
The Electronic Trade Documents Bill, approved in the House of Lords yesterday, will allow the digitisation of trade documents in a bid to cut down on the government’s reliance on paper.
The move to swap paper for digital documents for the UK’s £1.3 trillion trade industry is understood to have been accelerated during Covid-19 when the fragility of supply chains the world over was exposed.
The use of paper documents was already being questioned due to its weight, cost and concerns over sustainability. But as supply chains became heavily impacted during the pandemic, the Electronic Trade Documents Bill – drafted by the Law Commission – has been fast-tracked.
It also means the UK could be one of the first major economies to implement a paperless official document policy.
Celebrating the approval, City AM columnist and advocate of cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology that underpins it, Lord Holmes of Richmond said the potential benefits of new legislation were enormous.
“The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) estimates that if 50 per cent of the container shipping industry were to adopt electronic bills of lading, the collective global savings would be in the region of £3 billion,” he explained.
“It is shocking that an industry worth around £1.266 trillion to the UK still relies on paper documents. This change will transform trade but also demonstrate the way in which the UK can be at the fore of ground-breaking tech enabling legislation.”
He added that transferring a paper-based trade document can take seven to 10 days, whereas processing electronically will take as little as 20 seconds.
“Commercial trade documents currently have to be paper. Millions and millions of pieces of paper, endless hours of burdensome bureaucracy, delays, inefficiencies, and significant environmental costs,” he continued.
“It seems incredible that we can’t digitise this process but, currently, these trade documents – such as bills of lading and bills of exchange – rely on physical possession and in order to be legal, have to be physically transferred and on paper.
“So, despite having the technology available to us, and technological solutions that could offer such significant benefits, we are stuck. It is not currently legal to digitise trade documents. Practically possible but legally not. It is a ridiculous situation, but the excellent news is that we have a solution.”