The Home Office seeks to end the use of hotels and to move asylum seekers to less expensive, more suitable accommodation. To support that, we are bringing into use large, disused military sites and vessels, which will provide adequate, safe, secure, non-detained accommodation for asylum seekers and also reduce the pull factor to the United Kingdom.
I recently received an email from the Home Office that said that the use of hotels to house asylum seekers is “inappropriate”, and that reliance on them must be reduced. In the same email, the Home Office informed me that it planned to increase the use of hotel accommodation for asylum seekers in my constituency of Erdington by 159%—the single biggest increase in the whole of Birmingham. How on earth can the Minister expect the country to trust him when he cannot even keep his policies consistent within the same email?
The policy that we have adopted is one of maximising the capacity of the hotels that we have for as long as we have them. That is saving the taxpayer at least a quarter of a billion pounds and reducing reliance on hotels elsewhere in the country. I do appreciate that there are pressures on the hon. Lady’s local authority, and I also appreciate that some Labour local authorities, such as Westminster City Council, say that asylum seekers must be housed in individual, ensuite bedrooms. We do not agree with that: it is a gross waste of taxpayers’ money that would make the UK a soft touch.
In my constituency, I have had the same experience as my hon. Friend Mrs Hamilton, but the question I want to ask is about unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The Home Office still has not explained how it is going to find the children missing from asylum accommodation, so will it set out the plans to do that and find these vulnerable people?
We have been very clear that we and the police take extremely seriously any young person who goes missing from a hotel or any other form of accommodation. Local police forces and Home Office personnel treat that exactly as they would any other child going missing and they conduct a full missing person inquiry. However, the only sustainable answer to young people living in hotels is to stop the boats in the first place. Doing nothing is not an option. Doing nothing will lead to more young people living in those hotels and being exposed to human traffickers.
While I do very much welcome the Minister’s determination to move away from hotels and towards other accommodation, will he give particular attention to the Wiltshire hotel and golf club in my constituency? The number there has gone up: there are now 120 people there, and they are all crammed into very small accommodation. It is not only bad from the point of view of the golf club members and neighbouring long-term residents with them in housing next door, but it is an extremely bad place from the point of view of the asylum seekers. They have nowhere to go and nothing to do. They have no education facilities and no religious facilities. They are stuck in the middle of the countryside with no transport, and it is quite the wrong place for them to be. Will the Minister please give particular attention to the Wiltshire hotel?
I am familiar with the hotel in my hon. Friend’s constituency and the concerns he has raised. I will take a look at that, but as I have said previously, the answer to this challenge is to stop the boats coming in the first place. That is why we all need to support the Illegal Migration Bill. Those who want more hotels would oppose it. The Labour party’s policy will see more hotels, and the shadow Home Secretary will end up with more hotels to her name than Paris Hilton.
I do not know how to follow that, Mr Speaker.
All Members would like to see a reduction in the number of hotels used for asylum accommodation—I am sure that is true—but will the Minister spend a moment to congratulate the community of Sharnbrook, and in particular Rev. Paolo Di Leo and Councillor Doug McMurdo, on providing a welcoming environment for people who are put in such accommodation? I think there are signs across the country that communities do come together in these difficult circumstances to achieve an outcome that is beneficial for everyone.
I would be very happy to put on record my view of the good work being done by my hon. Friend’s constituents. He is right to say that there are voluntary and community groups, charities and churches right across the country that support asylum seekers while they are in this form of accommodation, and we and our providers facilitate that wherever possible.