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Keith Vaz a no show at Westminster eForum

Industry heads mock missing MP as Tiga and ELSPA reject merger suggestions

Controversial MP and noted game critic Keith Vaz has failed to put in a scheduled appearance at the Westminster eForum event today, leading to ridicule from both his fellow panellists and the audience.

Vaz was due to take part in a panel entitled "Options for government and supporting the sector"; with his last minute withdrawal drawing heckles from the crowd and leading to a thinly veiled comparison with Hugo Chavez from Tiga CEO Richard Wilson.

This lead to Conservative MP Ed Vaizey suggesting the nickname "Keith Chavaz", following Venezuelan president Chavez's recent description of videogames as "poison".

Eidos life president Ian Livingstone took the empty place in the panel, with chairman Tom Watson MP inquiring after the quality of his Keith Vaz impression.

Without answering Livingstone launched into a satirical polemic against the games industry, asking why anyone would want to support an industry which brought such benefits to the UK and insisting that "Games are evil … games are turning children into killers".

Becoming more serious Livingstone asked why it had taken ten years for the UK government to engage with the games industry. He complained that instead the government had been "playing to the stereotype" of videogames as a danger to society and as a result had been "short-changing the country".

Livingstone was supportive of the government's changing attitude though, with fellow panellist Keith Ramsdale, vice president of EA Northern Europe, suggesting that the Byron Report had been a turning point.

Ramsdale suggested that the report had "put games on the agenda" for the government, while also causing positive changes at ELSPA and bringing MPs such as Watson and Vaizey to the fore.

The EA exec summed up much of the eForum event by naming the incorporation of the PEGI ratings system into law, tax incentives and improved broadband speeds as the three most important issues for the UK industry.

Finally, and in keeping with other Conservative MPs such as John Whittingdale, Ed Vaizey suggested that a potential Tory government would be much more receptive to implementing tax incentives than Labour.

However, the recent recession and impending public sector cuts lead him to suggest that a time frame of two to three years for any new tax breaks was the most realistic. In the meantime he suggested that use of current tax incentive schemes and even co-operation with the UK Film Council might be a short term solution - although this met with a mixed response from the audience.

Vaizey was also in favour of a merger between Tiga and ELSPA to form a new UK Games Council, although this firmly ruled out by both parties.

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