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Ipswich MP brands unconscious bias training ‘patronising’ and a waste of taxpayers’ money

PUBLISHED: 15:19 21 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:42 24 September 2020

Tom Hunt says the unconscious bias training which may be offered to MPs is a waste of time and money. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Tom Hunt says the unconscious bias training which may be offered to MPs is a waste of time and money. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

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Ipswich MP Tom Hunt is prepared to join a number of other MPs in not taking part in unconscious bias training – branding it ‘patronising’ and a waste of time and money.

Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said he would undertake the unconscious bias training if it were offered to him.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNDr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said he would undertake the unconscious bias training if it were offered to him. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

It has emerged the training, which has been in place for parliamentary staff since 2016, could be piloted for MPs to help tackle racism in the House of Commons.

Unconscious bias is prejudice towards a group of people or individuals which a person may have without being aware of – this can come from social stereotypes.

Mr Hunt said though he hadn’t been contacted by the government about the training, he resented it and commented “it is treating MPs like children”.

He said: “I think these sessions would be a waste of British taxpayers’ money and it’s so patronising, a waste of everyone’s time.

“Even if I had the time to do it, no I wouldn’t because I don’t believe the science shows it has any effect and I resent that it is even being considered.”

He said his time has been taken up with government work and that he had many constituents getting in touch to discuss their issues, which he felt they would rather he tackled instead of taking the training course.

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Mr Hunt added: “If there are cases of racism in parliament then they need to be addressed and people need to be punished, likewise if any of my constituents have experienced racism then I urge them to get in touch.”

Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, says he would do the training course if it was offered.

“I know there is mixed evidence about the success of unconscious bias training but I feel it is something on balance that is beneficial to do,” he said.

“I hope most, if not all, MPs act in a way which is not racist or prejudiced but there is a point in recognising whether we have that unconscious bias when making assumptions towards certain groups or people.

“It strikes me as a worthwhile opportunity for us to engage with something and challenge our own preconceptions and beliefs.

“It may well allow us to be better at doing our jobs in the future.”

A total of around 40 MPs are reportedly taking a stand against the training and would refuse to take part if it was offered.

A spokesman for the House of Commons said: “We are committed to creating an inclusive workplace and, following requests from MPs, we have made unconscious bias training available to them on a small pilot basis, with positive feedback received.

“These are not mandatory, and the pilot is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.”


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