Dealing with the same issue: why not say the same thing?

27th September 2019

Maitland/AMO’s Andy Donald shares his views on the criticism levelled at Transport Secretary Grant Shapps for “copying [other] people’s homework” in his HoC address on Thomas Cook’s collapse. Read in full below.

One of the small side stories around the collapse of Thomas Cook this week, was criticism levelled at Transport Secretary Grant Shapps for using the same words as his predecessor had done when speaking about the collapse of Monarch in 2017. Shapps was accusing of “copying [other] people’s homework” in his address to the House of Commons on the issue, with a number of people seeming to believe there was something inherently wrong in this.

But really what was the problem?

Shapps was making a statement on the collapse of a travel company (Thomas Cook) and the actions the Government was taking to repatriate passengers to the UK, i.e. the same situation that Monarch and his predecessor Chris Grayling faced in 2017. The same situation, with the same action being taken, surely merits use of the same words.

Furthermore, Government Ministers do not write their own speeches for delivery in such circumstances; they are drafted by their departmental officials or private office staff. While the Minister this time may be different, there will be staff in place at the Department for Transport (DfT) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who dealt with the Monarch situation and would have rightly utilised their relevant and recent experience.

A Labour MP was quoted in The Times as saying Shapps’ speech was “frankly appalling”. This rather seems to miss the point – given the current level of discourse taking place in the House of Commons, would MPs prefer staff in the DfT spent their time ensuring travellers stranded abroad are brought home, or, wordsmithing a speech?


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