About 6 weeks ago on 22nd September John Hayes MP was on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme being interviewed by Justin Webb. The interview arose because the House of Commons was due to give some training to all of the MPs and he and some of his colleagues had raised their opposition to this in an article on the Sunday Times. In the interview he explained why he was opposed to the idea of him or indeed any of his Conservative colleagues from being trained on an Unconscious Bias course. I heard it on the radio and wrote about it here on that day. Although his own views and those of his colleagues were clearly mistaken, given how much bias people they do possess he raised one point that seemed to have some value. He stated as part of his response to the course that one of the reasons why he was opposed to the training was that:
I think to spend something like £700,000 of taxpayers money on therapy for MPs …… is it is about re-education and cleansing us. There is a maoist quality to this.
So although spending approximately £1,080 per MP for a course is not cheap, many people do go on courses that cost that sort of money. However if you have 650 employees one would anticipate something a bit cheaper if all of them were attending the training. It was clear that along with John some of his party were not prepared to attend the course. Indeed one of the group of around 30 Tory MPs stated in the article
“I would rather gouge my eyes out with a blunt stick than sit through that Marxist snake oil crap”
It may have been John Hayes or it may have been one of his mates. Either way it demonstrates that whilst his financial opposition had some value, that their other barriers were much more damaging. As it happens a few days ago John Hayes asked a question which was answered by a member of the SNP who happens to be one of the MPs in Parliament who represents the House of Commons Commission. His names is Pete Wishart and he answered the question on Wednesday.
JH: To ask the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, what the total cost is of the unconscious bias training commissioned by the House of Commons.
PW: The total cost will be £9,750.
So it appears that the claim made by John Hayes on Radio 4 was out of proportion by about 72 times. So for him to claim that attending an Unconscious Bias course would cost his constituents a proportion of £700,000 and stating that such money could be better spent elsewhere was also ignoring the fact that the MPs latest pay rise is £3,000 each. So this will represent £1.95m which is a bit more money than he was claiming the course would cost. However for the House of Commons to spend £10k on a course to improve the MPs understanding of their constituents and indeed their co-workers seems to be a very modest price. It represents around about £15 per MP which seems to be less than most of them spend on a meal in the House of Commons and most of them could miss one meal. Let us hope that in due course Justin Webb will get John Hayes to come on the radio again and they can revisit this issue and he can explain why a £15 course is too expensive for his constituents.