All main UK political parties to 'support tax breaks'
Conservatives and Lib Dems pledge to see through financial aid for UK industry post-election
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are both committed to supporting tax breaks for the UK videogames industry, regardless of the outcome of the General Election next month, in light of the Labour government's promise in last week's Budget statement.
That's according to pledges made at a panel discussion event hosted by ELSPA last night, and attended by Conservative shadow minister Ed Vaizey, Labour MP Tom Watson and the Liberal Democrats' Don Foster, which featured for the most part discussion based on questions from the audience.
On the subject of tax breaks - inevitably top of the billing after the surprise Budget announcement - it was Don Foster who first claimed that his party would support the measure when it is presented in July.
Shortly afterwards, although he wouldn't comment on whether the Conservatives would implement the same system suggested by the government, Ed Vaizey repeated several times - unequivocally - "We are going to support tax breaks for the videogames industry."
As things stand there's a big question mark over the 'film-style' tax breaks mooted by the Chancellor last Wednesday - support which will be worth £90 million in the first two years - because of the General Election, which looks likely to be set for May 6.
The latest polls predict a hung Parliament, but with cross-party support - and particularly that of the Liberal Democrats - the measures seem to stand a reasonable chance of being implemented in that eventuality. However, even if they do make it through unscathed, the industry won't start benefiting until at least 2011, the first opportunity that the policy could come into effect.
Other topics touched on at the event included the skills issue, with broad consensus that videogames should play a greater role in learning, and the Digital Economy Bill, set to go through next week ahead of the Election being called - a paper which will include the PEGI ratings policy, but also the controversial piracy measures, which Watson accused the Tories, Lib Dems and the Labour front bench of conspiring on in order to hurry through.
"If you make laws quickly, you make bad laws," he said, adding: "Shame on you both [to his fellow panellists] and shame on my front bench." Vaizey responded by calling the plans - which include the 'three strikes' letters and internet suspension for offenders - as "sensible and constrained," and that if the bill didn't pass next week, "a new government would find it very difficult to push through legislation of that complexity."
Don Foster added that the industry deserved to see the wheels set in motion, and denied that crucial sections of the bill had been rushed, while Vaizey blamed the Labour government for leaving it until the last possible moment, and putting the other parties in an "invidious position."