New £50 notes to be printed on plastic

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Monday 15 October 2018

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The Bank of England has confirmed it plans to issue a new £50 note printed on polymer.

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The current £50 notes were issued in 2011

The final note in the latest series, its release into circulation will follow the release of the new £20 note fronted by artist JMW Turner, which will be issued on polymer in 2020.

De La Rue will print the new £50 note as part of the 10-year contract it signed with the Bank of England in 2014, and which began in April 2015.

The Bank will announce a character selection process for the new note in due course, which will seek nominations from the public for potential characters to appear on it.

Labour MP Wes Streeting has called for British-Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole to become the first black person to feature on British currency.

He told The Telegraph: “Mary Seacole’s achievements are too often overlooked in history and yet what she did for soldiers in the Crimean War was an act of great heroism, which led to her being voted the greatest black Briton.”

The £5 and £10 notes were moved to polymer – a cleaner, safer and stronger substrate – in September 2016 and September 2017 respectively. Polymer notes are harder to counterfeit and more environmentally friendly than paper notes because they last around 2.5 times longer, according to the Bank.

The Bank of England’s chief cashier Sarah John said: “At the Bank, we are committed to providing the public with high-quality notes they can use with confidence. Moving the £50 note onto polymer is an important next step to ensure that we can continue to do that.”

The Bank added that, following discussion with suppliers, it has not identified any changes to the availability or cost of alternative polymer substrates which would alter the conclusion reached in August last year.

At the time there had been protests from vegans, vegetarians and religious groups about the use of trace amounts of animal derivative tallow in the polymer used for the new notes.

The Bank therefore currently anticipates that the composition of the polymer substrate for £50 will be the same as for the £20.

First introduced in 1981, there are currently 330 million £50 notes in circulation, with a combined value of £16.5bn, according to the Treasury, which said the more secure note will help to clamp down on crime.

The future of the £50 note had looked uncertain in recent times after concerns were raised about it being used for money laundering and tax evasion.

But the government said it will retain the current mix of coins and notes following a public consultation.

It said the decision gives people more flexibility over how they spend and manage their money while the new more secure note will make it harder for criminals to counterfeit the note for illegal activity.

The exchequer secretary to the Treasury Robert Jenrick said: “Our coins and notes are respected and recognised the world over and are a key part of the UK’s heritage and identity.

“People should have as much choice as possible when it comes to their money and we’re making sure that cash is here to stay.

“Our money needs to be secure and this new note will help prevent crime. This modern £50 note follows the popular new pound coin, which is the most secure of its kind in the world.”

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