Britain edging closer to digital pound decision, says minister - BLOOMBERG
LONDON, May 10 (Reuters) - Britain must not get left behind in rapid financial innovation and it was getting closer to deciding "when, rather than if" it would issue a digital version of sterling, its financial services minister said on Wednesday.
The finance ministry and Bank of England launched a public consultation in February on preparing the ground for a possible digital pound that was likely to enter into circulation in the second half of this decade.
Although no final decision has been taken, Britain's financial services minister Andrew Griffith said on Wednesday that Britain needed to embrace changes in payments and not hold back the tide.
"We would not commit the time to the consultation if we didn't think we are getting closer, we are not there today, but we are getting closer to the point that if becomes a when and not and if," Griffith told an event held by OMFIF think tank.
Britain must not be left behind global innovation in payments with non-cash forms of payments already accounting for 85% of payments and still growing, Griffith said.
Many countries are preparing the ground for a digital version of their currencies, with the European Union due shortly to publish a draft law that would give a legal basis for a digital euro, if one was introduced.
"We envisage a digital pound acting in a similar way to a physical pound, it will be a safe, trusted form of money," Griffith said.
However, fiat-backed wholesale digital currencies would be launched before any digital pound, regulated by rules now being approved in parliament, Griffith said.
Reporting by Huw Jones, Editing by Louise Heavens