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THE BIRMINGHAM POST: New laws are out of step with cultural needs.

This Government, more than most, seems to have a history of introducing legislation which has unforeseen and unfortunate results.

Remember the Licencing Act 2003, for example? That's the one that musicians complained would kill off smallscale live music in bars and restaurants. Research by the Government's own Department of Culture Media and Sport last year found that such music had declined by five per cent since the act was introduced in 2005 - hardly annihilation, but not a change in the direction you would suppose a department with the word "culture" in its title would want to see. The remarkable thing is that five years on from the proposals first being unveiled, the Musicians Union and Live Music Forum are still lobbying for exemptions.

So let's not take it for granted that commonsense will easily prevail in the case of the new proposed points system for workers coming to Britain from outside the European Union. The system, due to come into force this autumn, divides workers into various categories to determine that they have the right stuff to benefit the UK. It emerges that ballet dancers are one category which confounds the system as currently conceived.

This is because, though self-evidently highly skilled, they do not have conventional academic qualifications.

Dancers tend to be highly mobile between companies in different countries because their skills are readily transferable.

Companies in Paris, Tokyo or Birmingham will share much of the same repertoire.

At the beginning of this season, for example, BRB recruited two New Zealanders from Australian Ballet (ironically, Australia provides one of the models for the new system). At the moment this is entirely normal and it would be something of a shock to the system if companies were no longer able to recruit dancers worldwide.

There is probably an assumption, unchallenged until now, that the sharing of experience and expertise is a good thing, and it is likely to be felt as a backward step if there is an expectation that companies should fill their ranks exclusively from home-grown talent. In any case, many graduates of British dance schools will still need work permits because they are originally from non-EU countries. Clearly dancers are a special case - balti chefs and jockeys might be two others - which needs to be treated sensibly when this new system is introduced.
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Title Annotation:Leaders
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 28, 2008
Words:386
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