The Tory backlog of 143,000 asylum seekers is the root cause of this hotel crisis.
This huge decline in decision-making is a result of the Tories demoting decision-makers down the pay scale, creating recruitment troubles.
The Minister failed to answer a single one of my questions.
Stephen Kinnock: It seems that we come to the Chamber at least once a week to hear about the mess that the Home Secretary is making of an asylum system that her Government have broken. The root cause of today’s urgent question is the failure of the Government to process asylum claims with anything like the efficiency required. In 2012, the Home Office was making 14 asylum decisions a month; it is now making just five.
Tory Ministers like to blame covid, but the truth is that this is a mess of their own making. They chose to downgrade asylum decision makers from higher executive officer grade to lower executive officer grade, leading to a less experienced workforce on lower wages with lower retention rates and collapsing morale. The inevitable consequences were slower decisions, more decisions overturned at appeal, an increasing backlog and ballooning taxpayer costs.
With the average time to process an asylum claim standing at 449 days, the people smugglers see the backlog as a marketing opportunity—an open invite from this Conservative Government to those who want to melt away into the underground economy. All this catastrophic incompetence has led to the Minister scrambling around to find contingency hotel accommodation, resulting in what the Home Secretary described this morning as “poor communication” between central and local government.
Will the Minister therefore confirm whether he really feels that his undertaking to give local authorities as little as 24 hours’ notice is reasonable? Did he recently pull out of two meetings with council leaders at short notice? What mechanisms is he using to monitor the performance of contractors and subcontractors? I have heard from councils where the public health team was not informed about serious health issues, including pregnancies, so does he accept that he is failing to give local authorities key health-related information? What progress is he making on tackling the crisis of unaccompanied children being placed in hotels— 222 have already gone missing—and will he apologise to the couples who have had to cancel their wedding receptions in hotels at extremely short notice as a result of this Government’s chronic mismanagement?
Robert Jenrick: Dear me! The reason I had to pull out of the meeting with local authority leaders was that the hon. Gentleman had called an urgent question and I was here answering his questions. The idea that the Labour party knows how to get a grip of this challenge is, frankly, laughable. The last Labour Government left the Home Office in such disarray that their own Home Secretary declared it not fit for purpose and had to split the place up. The backlog of cases was so high that he had to institute an amnesty, where they literally wrote to people and said, “Welcome to Britain. We can’t process your application—you’re in.” That is not the approach that we are taking.
Labour Members have no credible proposals to stop the problem at source. They voted against the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, and they opposed the Rwanda scheme. Their own leader, in his leadership campaign, called for the closure of immigration removal centres—the places where we detain people, often foreign national offenders, while we are trying to get them out of the country. The truth is that, in the last Labour Government, the party was committed to mass migration and uncontrolled immigration. We are only the party that believes in the British public. We are the party that wants to ensure that we secure our borders and have a controlled migration system.