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Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 14:22 GMT
Games levy to fund adult learning?

games A small percentage of the price could fund bigger grants

A Labour MP is proposing that there should be a levy of up to 50p on computer games to fund a big expansion of adult learning.

Gordon Marsden, a member of the House of Commons education select committee, is one of 12 new Labour MPs who argue, in a pamphlet promoting policies for a future Labour government, that only radical proposals will see its goals accomplished.

Gordon Marsden Gordon Marsden: "Radical solutions needed"
The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has said he wants to see 50% of people aged 18 to 30 participating in higher education by 2007. At present about a third of that age group do so.

Mr Marsden, a former Open University lecturer, argues that there will have to be many more opportunities for people who missed out on getting qualifications at school.

He suggests that everyone should have a right to free tuition up to A-level standard. Currently only those aged under 19 get that - anyone older has to pay fees in further education colleges.

Bigger grants

He also wants to see all part-time students in higher education having access to means-tested loans to cover the cost of tuition, as applies to full-time students.

And he says there should be a great expansion of the new system of Individual Learning Accounts which the government has introduced to help people into further education.

games Games sales total about 500m a year in the UK
These currently offer grants of 150 towards the cost of education and training courses, assuming a 25 contribution from the student.

Mr Marsden suggests these grants could be raised to 1,000 or more, with tax relief for contributions from students or their employers.

He says this would offer practical support to students whose circumstances rule out the traditional three years of continuous study for a degree.

Games a 'reasonable target'

But he accepts that the money has to come from somewhere. One possibility would be to change Treasury rules on how student loans are accounted for.

Another would be a 'Leisure Technology Levy' of between 20p and 50p on the sale or rental of recreational videos and CD-ROM games. That would be approximately 1% of the purchase cost of new games.

"These are not taxed at the moment and they are therefore a reasonable target to consider," Mr Marsden says.

"I am not trying to be a lifelong learning Gradgrind. But if there is a potential source of income out there, it is something that should be considered.

"Lifelong learning is the big new initiative for the 21st century and I have tried to put forward ideas that will put flesh on the bones of Tony Blair's ambitious strategy.

"Flexibility and the ability of people to transfer credits and combine work with learning are the key to this."
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