Letter: Musical arrangements

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The Independent Online
Nick Varley's article "Ministry bars foreign musicians" (5 May) gave a misleading picture of what are in practice efficient and flexible arrangements for overseas performers in the music industry to obtain work permits in this country.

The procedures for obtaining a work permit are kept continually under review in consultation with representatives of the industry. There have been no recent changes in the arrangements nor are any planned, so your suggestion that a "strict new stance on work permits is hitting overseas rock and pop musicians" is incorrect. The Government does not wish to place unnecessary controls and barriers in the way but some are necessary.

Contrary to your report, although as a guideline we would like to receive applications four weeks before the permit is due, they are not refused if they are received later. However, this flexibility could be open to abuse and breakdown if too many applications were made only at the 11th hour: late applications are not uncommon even when the engagement has been booked weeks or months in advance. On occasion there may simply be insufficient time to run through the procedure necessary to issue the work-permit document, but this happens in only a minority of cases.

Cheryl Gillan MP

Department for Education and Employment

London SW1