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Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking): My hon. Friend argues his case with great conviction, but is he aware that those who object to the great size and rural location of such centres include several Labour Back Benchers, such as the much respected hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard)?
The simple truth is that these large accommodation centres are a recipe for tension, and a trial that is doomed to fail. The larger the centre, the harder it is to manage. Located in remote rural areas, such centres are like prisons without walls.
Serious practical problems also arise, such as the proximity of the foot and mouth disease burial site. Wychavon district council feels that it has insufficient information on the health consequences of that particular location. Proposing to dump asylum seekers 350 yards from such a burial site sends an odd signal to the wider world about our attitude to them. Given the use to which the airfield was previously put, serious environmental issues also need to be addressed. In undertaking their environmental impact assessment, I hope that the Government will listen carefully to what Wychavon district council has to say about the scope of that assessment. The question of what might be lurking on that airfield is a serious one.
There are also serious recruitment issues. The Government say that the project will create 300 jobs, but these are all in shortage areas. We cannot find teachers or social workers; it is an area, I am happy to say, of full employment. Quite how the Government will find people to work here, I do not know, and I worry about that.
Dumping asylum seekers miles from any of the nearest towns means that they will be locked in. The noble Lord Rooker said that residents would be given "pocket money" for bus fares, but there are no buses; there is nowhere they can go.
The proposal is very unfair on the local community. Lord Rooker suggested that it was time for rural England to take its share of the responsibility. This corner of rural England has already done more than most and should be left in peace. The area's major landfill siteactually a land rise siteis massive. Its hills look rather like a lunar landscape, or the scene after a nuclear attack, with hundreds of seagulls wheeling overhead. Local roads already take 500 lorry movements a day to service this huge rubbish tip. Also, there is a foot and mouth disease burial site.
Throckmorton accepted its responsibility willingly last year, despite the devastating impact that it had on local residents' lives. A decent Government would say that enough was enough and promise never to impose another burden on these people, who are not Nimbys; the truth is that their backyard is full. There are also serious implications for police, fire, health, education and social services.
Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire): Can I draw my hon. Friend's attention to an answer that I received from the Department of Health, which said that no assessment had been made in respect of any additional health or social care needs? Does that not show, first, that there will be such additional needs and, secondly, that the Government do not have a clue how much they will cost?
There have been meetings with the local health authority and the local police service, and they anticipate demands on these services. Worcestershire is at the bottom of every funding table there is. Where are the resources to come from to meet these additional demands? The only police presence in the community at present is PC Charlie Cavendish. We will certainly need a lot more than him to cope with the implications of the centre.
Is it true that some police authorities have declined to police these centres, or to provide the protection necessary? Who will be liable if there is a fire, such as that at Yarl's Wood? Who will insure this centre in the
Serious criminals were moved from prison to Yarl's Wood; what reassurances do we have that there will be no such people at this centre? How will we know exactly who is there? Will the local police be better informed by the Home Office than Bedfordshire police clearly were? How will the Government assess the risk of the individuals put there? Will the emergency services be fully involved in the planning and design of the centre? They certainly should be; failing to plan is planning to fail.
The proposal is contrary to planning policy. No one could get away with trying to build a residential development on this site except the Government. At the examination in public into the structure plan in 2000, the panel said of a proposed new village that
I do not want to play pass the parcel, but why is Defence Estates advertising a major site in the Liverpool area in this week's Estates Gazette? Was this siteDeysbrook barracksever considered? Somehow I doubt it. A team that did not know that one of the sites that they had chosen had been built on alreadyit is a car factoryand that another was adjacent to an oil refinery would not know about 33 acres of land, described by Defence Estates as "an outstanding development opportunity", which has outline planning approval for mixed-use development.
Many local people say that it is no coincidence that the three sites put forward by the Government are all in Conservative constituencies. I have dismissed those concerns, because the fourth site is likely to be in a Labour or Liberal Democrat seat. However, I would like the Minister to give an absolute assurance on that point now, because many people do not believe that the location is not motivated by party politics.
Can the Minister also assure us that the Home Office's money, which will boost the value of QinetiQ's site on the old airfield, is not being used to boost the value of QinetiQ before its privatisation? Home Office money will be used to build the road up to the site and that could give QinetiQ a direct cash boost. It is a bit strange that the privatisation of QinetiQ is imminent.
The property market in Throckmorton has been decimated by the decision. Houses in the village can no longer be sold. At the rally on Sunday, I met a woman in tears because her house sale had fallen through. People cannot sell their houses for one simple reason: the Government have taken the decision to locate two sites therea foot and mouth disease burial site and an asylum centre. That is the Government's fault and no one else's. I accept that it is not the Home Office's fault or DEFRA's fault alone. Liability does not fall strictly to either of those two Departments, but it does fall to the Government.
This matter is very serious. People's lives are being ruined and any asylum seeker placed in a centre in Throckmorton would also be seriously jeopardised and prejudiced by that location. The more I think about the policy, the more worried I become, not just for Throckmorton and Worcestershire, but for any community unfortunate enough to be near an asylum centre, and for any asylum seeker sent to one. I urge the Minister to reconsider the whole policy.