Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what targets have been set for numbers of applications for work permits processed by Home Office officials in (a) 2003 and (b) 2004; and how targets are allocated among departmental offices. 
Mr. Browne [holding answer 12 March 2004]: There are no targets for the number of work permits issued by the Home Office, although the Sectors Based Scheme within these arrangements is subject to a quota. The work permit system is designed to be flexible and responsive to the needs of employers and the economy. The overall number of work permits issued will depend on the number of applications made by employers and whether individual applications meet the criteria for the issuing of permits.
Work Permits (UK) does make internal planning assumptions about expected volumes of applications (on a financial, not calendar, year basis), in order to allocate resources to process applications. Work Permits (UK)‘s planning assumption for 2003?04 is that it will receive 175,000 work permit applications (including extension applications). The current planning assumption for 2004?05 is 183,000. These figures do not include applications under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme applications, which Work Permits (UK) also administers.
These planning assumptions are informed by monitoring trends in volumes of applications and consultation with stakeholders, including other Government Departments on labour market conditions.
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