§ Mr. Wilkinson
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on changes to the immigration rules to facilitate the entry into the UK of information technology and e-commerce specialists. 
§ Mrs. Roche
The Government have made a number of changes in the immigration system in order to facilitate the entry into the United Kingdom of highly skilled people.
The results of a fundamental review of the work permit system, operated by the Department for Education and Employment, were announced in the 2000 Budget statement and a range of measures have been introduced to streamline the system over the last year. This has led to a number of changes facilitating the entry of information technology and e-commerce specialists. For example, the skills shortages list, which makes it easier to obtain a permit where no European Economic Area (EEA) resident 569W is available to fill a post, has been updated to include more information technology and e-commerce jobs. Additionally, to ensure that the system responds quickly to shortages, a sector panel for the Information Technology Communications and Electronics industry has been established. Also, to be eligible for a work permit, two years' post-graduate work experience is no longer needed, thereby enabling non-EEA students with specialist skills to work immediately after graduation in the UK.
Other changes include a pilot scheme, launched by the Home Office in September 2000, to attract more business innovators to the UK. It is aimed at those entrepreneurs looking to develop business ideas in the service and technology sectors, especially e-commerce, even if they do not have substantial amounts of their own money to invest. 38 applications have so far been approved.
We are also developing a scheme designed to allow individuals of outstanding ability to come to the UK to seek work. This will help the UK in competing for highly skilled workers.