The inaugural ELSPA Question Time event at BAFTA HQ last night saw the three key political parties debate some of the biggest issues surrounding the game industry.
Labour’s Tom Watson, Conservatives’ Ed Vaizey and Lib Dem’s Don Foster each had a chance to respond to questions surrounding piracy, game age ratings, development tax breaks, the wider media’s view on the industry, education and – briefly – Keith Vaz.
It was an enlightening event somewhat tampered by a string of botched metaphors and strangely impassive late-night mud-slinging.
The issue was probably at its most heated when Watson and Vaizey butted heads on the details surrounding game tax breaks.
Watson: Are you in favour of Alistair Darling’s proposals for game development tax breaks?
Vaizey: Well, they are proposals. Let’s see [how] they turn out, [Labour has] got to get them through the European Commission first.
Watson: Where do you stand on the issue?
Vaizey: We support tax breaks for the videogame industry.
Watson: Do you support Alistair Darling’s proposals?
Vaizey: We support tax breaks for the industry.
Watson: Oh right then. You haven’t answered the question.
Vaizey: Well what are Alistair Darling’s proposals? The European Commission signs it off? You may remember when the Government tried film tax credits, I spent a day in meetings trying to debate this, and then the European Commission rejected it. So when Darling comes back with something we can debate, we will debate it.
Conservative MP Vaizey eventually mustered an unequivocal pledge for game tax breaks in his party’s first budget, yet the overall clash was indicative of the three parties’ underlying acrimony on each others’ approach.
Again, the country’s main political forces were arguing why you shouldn’t vote for the other, as opposed to why you should vote for their own party.
“I think you only have to look at Labour’s record – they’ve done nothing for this industry in the last thirteen years,” said Viazey.
He said that in the last three years the Tories have “raised the issue” regarding the industry workforce emigrating to Canada.
Vaizey then took his political gloves off and reminded attendees of the Government’s lowest moment in the whole tax break saga, explaining that the Labour administration once tried to resolve tax break problems by issuing a complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in regards to Canada’s healthy subsidy policy.
“It wasn’t until I put down a parliamentary question about this, that the Government had to admit that the WTO was going to do absolutely nothing,” he said.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat representative MP Don Foster went out of his way to praise the progress the industry is making.
“I think the industry has turned a corner – I don’t think we’ll go back to the days where videogames are seen as some weird fringe hobby,” he said.
“I think they’re very mainstream, and I think the fact that the government announced its proposals for game development tax breaks in the budget has shown how far the industry has come.