Speaking at the Develop conference today, culture minister Ed Vaizey was elusive on whether he personally would continue to campaign for tax relief for the games industry, and as to whether the industry should continue to push for it.
Responding to GamesIndustry.biz's question as to whether the tax relief ship had sailed and the industry should be looking to alternatives instead, the parliamentary Under-Secretary of State said "By all means regroup, look carefully at the incentives the industry needs."
"There's a recognition from US companies that they must become much more closely involved in this debate," he said, but avoided confirming that he would himself be pushing for tax relief in the future. "I can't emphasise enough that I am not the chancellor, it's just in my view that the treasury's always open to rational argument and debate. If you take the opportunity after the budget to regroup and think about the opportunities for foreign investment and to compete across the world...
"It's good to see the industry working together on this. I don't have any problem with the industry continuing to campaign for the measure its needs. But the treasury has a huge number of competing pressures on it, there will be other people with their own agenda pushing their issues on the treasury."
In reply by a question from TIGA boss Richard Wilson as to whether the industry could expect direct help from Vaizey on convincing the treasury to adopt tax relief, he said "To put it bluntly: you haven't made the case because the chancellor didn't accept it. You have to go back to the drawing board and start again." While he was evasive on what his own efforts would be from hereon in, he claimed that his door remained open to the industry and that "We have to work together to present a realistic case to the treasury."
On concerns that the loss of tax relief would lead to Canada scooping up publisher interest, Vaizey said "I would counsel against a counsel of despair. Canada has its attractions and they are financial attractions, but this country has attractions too." He stressed the appeal of Britain's culture and talent pool. "There is still a massively strong pull to invest in this country. I personally think this industry has a fantastic future. I want to work with the industry and help you."
Once again hinting that he may no longer be actively pushing for tax relief, he said "I don't think that because we don't have tax breaks the industry is going to fall over."
However, Vaizey did today launch a previously revealed 2 million fund in association with Abertay to help small video games companies, and stated that industry luminaries such as Charles Cecil and Ian Livingstone would be advising on improving training and opportunities for young people looking to enter the industry.
He also repeated David Cameron's argument that chancellor George Obsborne's "macro" stance on tax for businesses, including lowered corporation tax and national insurance payments for smaller companies, would ultimately prove helpful to the games industry.
Ed Vaizey's full address to Develop can be watched below: