A Conservative minister has been caught red-handed stealing a House of Commons speech from Wikipedia. Ironically enough, the MP in question is universities minister John Hayes, whose portfolio encompasses academic standards and, erm, plagiarism.

The following comparison between Hayes’ speech during a private member’s bill and the this Wikipedia article has been provided by ePolitix.com (full version):

Though Hayes has already pointed the finger at a researcher, it would seem an apology is in order. Tory toff Jacob Rees-Mogg said sorry after sections of an article from The Sun were cut and pasted into a constituency leaflet while a Canadian PM Stephen Harper was forced to eat humble pie after copying sections of an address from his Aussie counterpart John Howard (his speechwriter was sacked).

Scrapbook wonders whether the offending researcher also tabled this question for Hayes in 2008:

Students: Plagiarism

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what assessment he has made of the findings of the Academic Misconduct Benchmarking Research Project. [209484]

Hayes should hope he is not held to the same standard as students. The report in question from the Plagiarism Advice Service states:

“We identified 25 different penalties that are available for student plagiarism throughout the HE sector. These range from ‘no further action’ through to ‘expulsion … By far the most commonly cited penalty was expulsion”

What will schoolmaster Bercow think?

  1. I’m not sure I’m with you on this one. Much as I’d like it to be a case of another lying cheating tory minister, I don’t think you can realistically expect ministers to write answers for every question themselves, or prepare every speech. Every politician with govt responsibilities has help. So what you are doing is exposing some junior researcher or civil servant who didn’t do their job well. I’m not sure that justifies a gloat. But you have revealed some excellent stuff in other areas – maybe you need a little quality control though?

  2. @Colin: It’s a pretty big cock-up, no MP has been caught copy-pasting Wikipedia before. As for “quality control”, it’s already been covered by the Metro and ePolitix and is in the top 5k re-tweeted links on Twitter.

  3. From what I understand, many MPs will grab their speech from their researcher right before they head off to the chamber, so they don’t really have time to check for plagarism. In this case, the staffer must have been either lazy or complacent. S/he could have just as easily called up the House of Commons Library and asked for a short blurb on the history of bank holidays; that’s what they’re there for! The staffer deserves to be punished for such a lack of professionalism and rigour; it’s their job to make their MP look good, or at least protect them from looking stupid.

    That said, he is ultimately responsible for the acts of his staff. I doubt he’ll fall on his sword, but he really needs to apologize to the House.

  4. Thank you for this. Very illuminating. If, as you say, his portfolio encompasses plagiarism, then he and his staff should be particularly scrupulous in avoiding it, and someone has spectacularly fallen down on the job..

  5. I stand by my position. If he had plagiarised the item personally then that would be a different matter. You’re getting mad at him for not checking all his staff’s work, which is frankly a little ridiculous. Just because other people pick up on it or chatter about it doesn’t make any difference. You need a supporting argument for your position that stands up, not a list of other people who got it wrong.

  6. @ Colin

    Then why is this man a politician if all he does it recite what his researchers have written? Of what significance is he? That implicitly puts his researcher in a position of significant power and a voice in parliament does it not?

  7. @Colin:

    John Ringer (above) is right. The responsibility for what a member says in parliament lies with the member, who must also equip themselves with a quality staff that they can trust.

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