Shadow Arts minister Ed Vaizey sent out a reassuring message about Tory film policy in a speech to key industry figures today (October 13).

Speaking at Screen International’s annual Film Summit in London, Vaizey sought to allay fears about the future of the UK tax credit under a Conservative government, saying that his party was “absolutely committed to keeping the film tax credit in place.”

Vaizey, who has held the role of shadow arts minister since November 2006, said he was “completely open minded” to calls for changes to the tax credit in relation to co-productions and development, although he admitted that he was “not going to make any promises”.

“It took a hell of a lot of time to get this tax credit bedded down so people understood it. So to re-open it, which Europe might give us an opportunity to do in 2012, might be unnecessary,” he added.

Vaizey also dismissed suggestions that the Conservatives would make cuts to film funding: “The damage it could do to the British film industry which is still one of the largest in the world and incredibly culturally important, would be horrendous,” he said.

He added:  “What the government gives in terms of support to the film industry doesn’t register as so much of a blip on the Richter scale of government spending or  debt. The idea that we can put the economy right by somehow cutting film is slightly bizarre.”

Vaizey said there would be no major changes to the infrastructure of the industry if the Conservatives are elected, as it widely predicted. He said: “I am very happy to sign up to stability because I don’t come from the school of politics where you come in and change something just for the sake of changing it.”

He added that the regional Screen Agencies would also be “safe”, although he suggested that they “may evolve to take on wider roles.”

Speaking on the growing problems of digital piracy, Vaizey said he “agreed with the principle that ISPs have a role to play in combating piracy”, but that the Conservative party was “keeping an open mind until we see the final proposals from the government, because technically there is still a consultation going on.”

He added that the Conservatives were “not saying no to disconnection” in relation to proposals that repeat offenders should have their internet access disconnected.

Sharing the panel with Vaizey at the Screen International Film Summit was Jane Wright, managing director of BBC Films, Tessa Ross, Controller of Film and Drama at Channel 4 and John Woodward, chief executive of the UK Film Council.

In response to suggestions that the UKFC’s Premiere Fund, which invests in more commercial films, may be affected by the organisation’s forthcoming budget cuts, Woodward said: “The priorities are focusing on talent and excellence. And that probably takes us in the direction of new talent, and people who haven’t had a break, because those are the people who it is tougher to stump up the money to get their films made.”

He added that the UKFC was “right in the middle of those really big discussions at the moment.”