â??Tories have abandoned tax breaksâ?? [Update: Conservatives contest]

â??Tories have abandoned tax breaksâ?? [Update: Conservatives contest]

By Rob Crossley

April 26th 2010 at 12:36PM

Labour MP Tom Watson convinced of Conservative u-turn

RESPONSE: [Vaizey: you have to trust us on tax breaks]

The Conservative Party has abandoned plans to introduce game development tax breaks, a Labour MP insists.

Industry sympathiser Tom Watson, the Labour MP for West Bromwich East, told Develop that the Tories’ recent silence on the matter was evident of a party u-turn.

“The only conclusion I can draw is the Conservative Party has rejected calls for games industry tax credit,” he said.

“They are avoiding breaking the bad news before polling day.”

Watson said that it is a “great concern for the long-term interests of the industry” that party battle-lines on the issue have not been drawn before the election.

Rumours of a Tory U-turn on the pivotal issue surfaced once again over the past two weeks, after the opposition party failed to acknowledge game industry support measures in its 131-page manifesto.

Upon publication of the policy paper, various industry heads revealed to Develop fears that the Conservatives are no longer backing state support for the sector.

Develop’s report on the issue was swiftly expunged by MP Ed Vaizey – the Tory spokesperson for the game industry – who promised the party would soon publish a mini-manifesto that would outline its support for the industry.

Though scheduled to appear last week, that mini-manifesto has not been published.

Develop last week was in discussion with Conservative campaign headquarters and was told the paper had been delayed. A party spokesperson could not give a date on when it would be published.

Today Develop has called both party headquarters and Ed Vaizey to discuss the issue, though messages have yet to be returned.

The last time Ed Vaizey spoke on the issue, he remained confident that his party would support game development tax breaks.

“We’ll be publishing details of our support for the videogame industry very shortly,” he said.

“I can assure you that all the details will… include details for our support for video game tax breaks.”

But with ten days before polling day, serious doubts still remain on the Conservative’s position on the issue.

Ed Vaizey remains the only Conservative MP that has publicly supported game industry tax breaks. Shadow Chancellor George Osborne has not spoken publicly of the issue, despite a clear chance to do so in the Conservative Manifesto.

“If the Conservatives form any part of Government, [tax breaks] just isn’t going to happen,” said Watson, perhaps tellingly, while on the campaign trail.

“If they were committed to it they would be telling the industry about it right now.

“I’m not being party-political,” he said. “If the Conservatives were still supportive of tax breaks they would be making political capital about it right now.”

Last week the Chancellor Alistair Darling restated his support for the game industry – explaining to Develop why he introduced tax break policy.

Watson reflected: “The most important people in this is the money-men, and it doesn’t get more important than the Chancellor.

“The reason why the industry has lost out for the last few years is because the campaign for tax breaks was rebutted by the Treasury.

“It was only when the Treasury gave the green-light that things moved forward, and this was won principally because TIGA did brilliant by providing the Government evidence of why we should introduce tax credits.

“Ed Vaizey is probably the only Conservative MP that understands the game industry, but he’s not the one who makes the financial decision.”

Watson added that, in the event of a hung parliament, game tax breaks would not likely be negotiated out of the equation if Labour had to form a pact.

“I can’t see the Lib-Dems opposing the issue,” he added.