The Conservative Party has failed to cite game development tax breaks in its 131-page policy manifesto, raising suspicion that the party is no longer backing a tax-specific state support package as once thought.
Develop contacted the Conservatives to discuss the issue with the Shadow Treasury, yet campaign headquarters were reluctant to offer a statement.
Labour MP Tom Watson – an industry sympathiser who previously claimed to have identified conflict on the issue from within the Conservative Party – was concerned by the news.
He told Develop: “I hope this doesn’t mean that Ed Vaizey, who’s a friend of mine, has lost an internal battle with [Shadow Chancellor] George Osborne on the issue.”
Watson added that that the Conservative manifesto discusses a range of tax policies, raising further doubts over why the game-specific policy failed to get mentioned.
Labour’s own policy manifesto – a document which weighs in at half the size as the Conservatives’ – made a clear pledge to support the game industry by “introducing a tax relief for the UK”.
A Conservative party spokesperson claimed that anything Ed Vaizey says is backed by the Treasury, and thus, pulling other MPs away from the campaign trail would be an exercise in photocopying the same pledge.
Leading UK industry professionals have told Develop today that the nonappearance of game tax breaks in the Conservatives’ comprehensive manifesto was “very unsettling”.
The Tory shadow culture secretary, MP Ed Vaizey, recently said it will introduce game development tax breaks in its first budget if elected to form a Government.
That pledge itself followed months of ambiguity on the issue from the party.
In October last year, at the London Games Conference, MP Vaizey deftly slipped any concrete vow to introduce the kind of tax breaks that the industry has demanded for a number of years.
At the time he said: “I know most of you have been focused on an industry-specific tax break, but I encourage the sector to think more widely than that.”
Though at the recent ELSPA Question Time event, Vaizey pledged unequivocally that the Conservatives will introduce “fiscal support” for the sector.
But MP Tom Watson claimed to have identified conflict on the issue from within the Conservative Party.
He said, “Vaizey’s a great man, but basically he doesn’t make the calls. George Osborne does. And [Osbourne] hasn’t made his mind up on the issue.”
Today, one leading industry figure – speaking on the condition of anonymity – told Develop that the Conservative term “fiscal support” could mean anything.
“It could simply mean a grant for a regional body, or a kind of studio – it’s not concrete,” the person said.