§ Dr. Palmer
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will take steps to relax the immigration rules in respect of professionals from the catering industry. 
§ Ms Hodge
The changes to the work permit skills criteria, which came into effect on 1 October 2000, are in part a response to concerns raised by the catering industry about the lack of skilled, professional staff. Where it can be shown that UK or European Economic Area workers are not available, the process for employers to obtain the necessary work permit for overseas staff is now more transparent, straightforward and relevant to the needs of employers.
If we wish key sectors in the economy to grow, we must ensure that that growth is not inhibited by lack of relevant and appropriate skills. At the same time we are investing £6 billion a year in training and education for adults to encourage more people to develop the skills needed in the modern economy.