A new study has explored the process of putting Hansard, the official record of proceedings in the UK parliament, onto the blockchain – and concluded that it could have had ramifications for the Brexit process.
The report, titled ‘Assessing Practical Regulations Impacting Longstanding Frameworks Of Optimal Legislation’, found that blockchain technologies could theoretically be beneficial in providing greater transparency and accountability into British politics.
If records of MPs’ votes and debates on Brexit – particularly prime minister Theresa May’s deal – were placed on an immutable distributed ledger which could not be altered, the report argued, MPs may have been less inclined to continually change their stance on the subject. Moreover, the report added, providing an alternative secure, remote voting system could mean that MPs would not clutter the division lobbies, as well as provide instantaneous results, meaning the role of the Speaker would be greatly reduced.
In response to accusations that blockchain would be a panacea and ministers would not know what they were talking about, the report authors – who wished to remain anonymous and who stressed the report was non-binding and advisory only – simply commented: “Plus ca change.”
The House of Lords has overseen various discussions on blockchain, with one as recently as July detailing how there was ‘tremendous potential’ in the technology. Conservative Lord Ashton of Hyde outlined the rationale for UK public services. “The United Kingdom is well set up to be a global leader,” he said. “There is proof of concept going on in several government departments, for example, Defra, DfID, the NHS and, in my own department, the National Archives.”
Hansard has housed a comprehensive account of every speech made in the House of Commons and House of Lords for centuries. The online record from data.parliament.uk dates back to 1803. The report noted the challenges in migrating the sheer amount of available data onto a blockchain, adding that at the currently limited transaction speeds the task would be completed around the time the UK resolved its current political impasse anyway.
You can read the full report by visiting here (no email required).