A dramatic fall in the numbers of individuals claiming asylum, as well as a reduction in processing times for claims, led to a reassessment of the need for accommodation centres. The cost to date of accommodation centres is some £31 million, of which we expect to realise value from some £7.5 million if a prospective removal centre is built on the site near Bicester.
The cost thrown away on the Bicester site, according to the Minister's own parliamentary answers, is some £18.5 million. The House of Commons Library has calculated that, in Oxfordshire, £18.5 million would have bought us 3,000 trainee teachers, 600 probationary police officers and some 900 trainee nurses. Does the Minister now concede that that was a scandalous waste of money that would have been much better spent on nurses, teachers and police officers rather than being wasted on the scheme that the Government pursued for so many years?
It is true that, in the course of a protracted planning process, in which it was not only those on this side who had a hand, our measures to tackle the delays in processing asylum claims began to take effect. Now, 80 per cent. of asylum claims are taken within two months and the level of asylum support is £280 million less per year than it was in the year when the asylum accommodation centres proposal was made. The landscape has changed considerably. We think it sensible and prudent to take a decision that will mean that, over time, we will have an asylum system that enables us to process claims quickly and keep costs down.