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Bank of England deputy governor Jon Cunlifffe has told a committee of MPs that a digital pound has a better than 50/50 chance of coming to fruition.

In remarks before the Treasury Select Committe, Cunliffe said that the creation of a digital pound would open up new frontiers for payments innovation, citing possibilities arising from programmable money and micropayments.

MPs have accused the the Bank of taking an “ambivalent and half-hearted” approach to the project, a notion that was rejected by Cunliffe.

Asked by the Committee, on a scale of one to 10, how likely it is that a digital bank central currency will be needed, Cunliffe said: “I’d say, I’m not sure it would be helpful to put a number on it… I’d just say it’s more likely than not.”

Pressed on whether the number would be six out of 10, he said: “Well, we’re talking more than five.”

Cunliffe emphasised that it was important for the Bank to press ahead with its experimental work, explaining that waiting for the numbers to lurch to nine out of ten would leave it with a long five-year slog to catch up with other markets.

“These are big projects… this would be a very serious thing that would have to be resilient, fraud-proof, secure,” he says. “If we just wait until we say OK now we think it’s needed, we will be five years behind.”