The Department has long-term plans and proposals to change the way we accommodate asylum seekers.
Residents of Tatton are concerned about the ongoing nature of supposedly temporary accommodation for immigrants who arrive in the local area. Some hotels are becoming full-time immigration centres and those residing there are in limbo in our town centres. What is the timescale for processing these individuals and for reverting the accommodation back into hotels?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right in her comments. Through changes linked to the new plan for immigration we will end the use of hotel accommodation for asylum seekers, which was a result of the pandemic—we had to take decisive action to ensure that those seeking asylum in the UK were protected under covid measures. It was a short-term solution and the new plan for immigration includes long-term changes in the offing for asylum accommodation.
One big reason why we need to use hotels is that the asylum processing system has basically imploded. The share of applications that received an initial decision within six months fell from 87% in 2014 to just 20% in 2019. What is the Home Secretary’s explanation for that?
There are a number of factors in terms of why there has been slowing down in the processing of asylum claims. In particular, because of the covid pandemic last year, decisions were not made and we had to change our accommodation policies in the light of Public Health England guidance, which is well documented and well known. That has put pressures on the wider system. Of course, the hon. Gentleman will be well aware of the proposals in the new plan for immigration on not only processing, fast-track removals and the changes we are making in legislation, but the digitalisation of the system. We will move from paper-based decision making to digitalisation and that work is already in train.
Asylum seekers are given somewhere to live while their application is being processed, along with £39.63 per person to pay for food, clothing and toiletries. It says on the Government website:
“If you’ve been refused asylum”
you will still be given somewhere to live and still be given
“£39.63 per person…for food, clothing and toiletries”.
Why on earth is the state still providing accommodation and money for people who have been refused asylum? Surely that is when Government support should be turned off.
We agree that hotel use should end, but we should go back to the community dispersal of asylum seekers throughout the country. We need to ditch this ludicrous and dangerous idea that hotels are some sort of luxury for asylum seekers, because for very many of them the opposite is the case. The Home Secretary knows that the increased use of hotels has seen increased deaths in the asylum accommodation system. Why is the Home Office still placing large numbers of asylum seekers in unsuitable hotels in inappropriate locations, without so much as notifying the relevant local authority, never mind seeking its agreement or ensuring that appropriate levels of support are in place?
The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is, of course, because local authorities around the country, and particularly in Scotland, have not played their part in helping with dispersal accommodation. The hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of himself for coming to the House and making that point when the Scottish Government have done absolutely nothing to lift a finger in supporting the policy of dispersal accommodation. [Interruption.] In response to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips), the answer in relation to Birmingham is because the rest of the United Kingdom is not playing its part.
That is one of the most outrageous answers that this incredible Home Secretary has ever given. Every single local authority in Scotland is anxious to play its part in resettling refugees. When it comes to dispersal accommodation, Glasgow has stepped up to the plate while other local authorities are withdrawing from the scheme, and they are doing so, quite rightly, because the Home Office refuses to put in place the support that is required to encourage them to do that. Instead of community dispersal, the Home Office is planning to press ahead with large-scale warehousing of asylum seekers in Napier-style accommodation centres. That is worse even than hotels. Will she confirm that the Home Office will, at the very least, seek local authority permission for building these centres in the middle of people’s local authorities and will not seek to bypass local democracy, as it did with Napier barracks?
We on the Conservative side of the House will take no lectures on bypassing democracy or local councils. For the record, 31 local authorities out of 32 in Scotland have refused to participate in the dispersal scheme. I say to the hon. Gentleman and to all Members of the House that, when it comes to changes to asylum accommodation, the whole of the United Kingdom needs to step up and play its part. That is how we will address the long-term issues with accommodation more widely. [Interruption.] I can hear the hon. Gentleman say, “You need to play your part.” On the funding side of matters, it is absolutely correct to say that the Home Office, working with the former Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, has been doing everything possible to provide local authorities with financial support and assistance, but certain councils around the country still say no.