Leaked Email shows Tory MP openly flouting National Minimum Wage Laws

Philip Hammond MP: [it’s] an abuse of tax-payers funding to pay for something that is available for nothing

Philip Hammond, Tory MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, responded to concerns made by a member of the public that he was not complying with National Minimum Wage Laws in his recruitment of unpaid interns by saying: 

“I would regard it as an abuse of taxpayer funding to pay for something that is available for nothing and which other Members are obtaining for nothing. I therefore have no intention of changing my present arrangements.”

A damning response to an issue of serious concern. With thousands upon thousands of young people unemployed why don’t our public servants comply with the rules they themselves made law. Although Mr Hammond did not vote to introduce the National Minimum Wage he is compelled to obey it. It is not a case of one rule for MPs, another for the rest of society. The term ‘intern’ does not exempt someone from National Minimum Wage.

The position advertised described primary duties as “research and correspondence, constituency casework and general office administration” and lasted for 6 months.

National Minimum Wage Law states that if you work set hours, doing set tasks that other members of staff rely on and expect you to do then you should be paid basic minimum wage. Except if you are a full time student. As the role advertises for a “recent graduate” then this exception need not apply.

When asked, Mr Hammond and his office were not prepared to check the regulations governing National Minimum Wage Laws via the Minimum Wage Helpline (for any MPs reading… 0845 6000 678).

Some MPs, when questioned on this issue, talk of the important contribution interns make to their office and the great learning experiences they get in Westminster. Mr Hammond mentions neither of these things. He wants a free office administrator to cut costs. “Something for nothing” to paraphrase his terse email. This attitude is systematic of a closed and elitist mentality within Westminster. Concern for young people or even an appreciation of the work they do (18,000 hours of unpaid work in Westminster each week by parliamentary interns) doesn’t even come into it.

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38 Responses to “Leaked Email shows Tory MP openly flouting National Minimum Wage Laws”


  1. 1 Nick 08/14/2009 at 1:52 pm

    “A big part of my job is to know what is going on in the media, and I have an unpaid intern who goes through all the papers in the morning”

    In 07/08 he spent £1035.35 on 7 daily newspapers. I guess could have read them himself, if he wasnt too busy at Wimbledon with the Royal Bank of Scotland or a guest of Gallaher plc for lunch at the Chelsea Flower Show

  2. 2 jess 08/14/2009 at 3:30 pm

    Paying someone for working is a waste of taxpayers money but new houses, new cars, duck islands, expensive furniture, paying relatives for nothing, non existant mortgages, childcare, redecoration, cushions and repairs to a swimming pool are all obviously the responsibility of the tax payer. I wish someone would come and clean out my swimming pool, at my second home, for free…oh thats it, I could never in my wildest dreams own a second home or a swimming pool. I’d rather my taxes went on paying an intern than cultivating a luxury habitat for ducks….or is that just me?

  3. 3 Ian Duncan 08/14/2009 at 4:21 pm

    Is this the case in all industries? I don’t think there are many people who have got jobs in journalism or other areas of the media without working for free. It wouldn’t take long to find magazines looking to take on interns for three months (so likely not full time students) Dazed and Confused and Wired are two that spring to mind.

    I’m not arguing that graduates shouldn’t expect to work for free in competitive industries but if it’s illegal, then that’s another matter. (And would be good to hear…)

  4. 4 AlexT 08/14/2009 at 4:25 pm

    It is illegal Ian, and exploitative, and unjust… just take a look at the other posts on this site.

    • 5 James01 08/21/2009 at 11:43 am

      Rubbish

      If I offer to do unpaid work in order to gain valuable experience then that’s up to me.

      If you want to be paid for holiday work experience then go fill shelves at a Library, don’t take an unpaid role and then whinge.

      • 6 Jonathan 08/21/2009 at 11:54 am

        It’s not “up to you”. That decision also affects the person whose job you just took. How would you feel if you turned up for work one day and found you were redundant because someone had offered to do it for nothing?

        The economy relies on people being paid to do the work they do. Without paid work there is no economy, just debt.

        The reason Hammond is being picked out is not because he’s a Tory, it’s because he’s a) likely to be working in the treasury next year and b) has been stupid enough to be caught saying that it’s wrong to pay people for doing work. He’s not the only one doing it, and MPs are certainly not the only ones doing it. But he’s high profile and given his responsibilities, really should know how the economy and job market work.

  5. 7 Jonathan 08/14/2009 at 7:17 pm

    I’ve emailed a complaint to the Low Pay Commission. We’ll see what happens. I’ve blogged about internships on my own site: http://jonathanbaldwin.blogspot.com/2009/08/interns-something-needs-to-be-done.html

  6. 8 Andrew 08/16/2009 at 4:04 pm

    It is so obvious that Mr. Phillip Hammond, the current Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, loves free-riding in any situations that he comes across. When we look into his part in the MP expense scandal, his abuse of the taxpayer money was far more outrageous than spending on an intern (if, only if, he is going to pay that person).

    So I think it is time for all the civil servants to reassess on where they should spend their money. Investing in an intern is far more meaningful than spending on office equipments, because it nurtures the future of British politics.

  7. 9 Paul 08/20/2009 at 9:30 am

    Private Eye, page 8 people.

    National coverage of Mr Hammond’s shoddy behaviour.

  8. 10 Richard 08/20/2009 at 7:42 pm

    More details on this story are available on ePolitix.com at http://is.gd/2qtDj

  9. 11 Dear oh dear 08/20/2009 at 10:49 pm

    “Some MPs, when questioned on this issue, talk of the important contribution interns make to their office and the great learning experiences they get in Westminster”

    If your concern is the fact that using an intern without paying them the minimum wage is illegal, then the ‘excuses’ given should be irrelevant surely?

    These other MPs are just as much to blame – why not name them?

  10. 12 Dear oh dear 08/20/2009 at 10:55 pm

    In fact, why are you only picking on a Tory? Partisan attack?

    A very quick look on W4MP reveals at lest six Labour MPs doing exactly the same thing:

    One example, which uses almost exactly the same terminology you have criticised Hamond for (ie suggesting being a recent graduate would be ideal):

    Andy Slaughter (Labour MP)

    Title: Casework Intern

    Salary: None

    Job Description: Full time and for around three months. Located in Andy’s constituency office in Hammersmith.
    Would suit a recent graduate…

  11. 13 lucy 08/20/2009 at 11:03 pm

    How lame to reduce this to labour vs. tories – did you miss the Miliband story this site published not long ago.

  12. 14 The Bishop Swine 08/20/2009 at 11:04 pm

    Its simple dosn’t sound right. We know he is abusing the good will of very keen people who should be rewarded. Minimum wage is a very basic and very poor return for hard work, but its far better than a kick in the teeth, which is want this scumbag seems to be handing out here. Of course its bad for the hard working intern and also for the traders who said intern cannot afford to pay for services from. Even Conservatives understand that work must pay as it is pay that makes our system function. We must finally end this nonsence that work alone is important when we all know that bills must be paid and debts (students etc) must be paid off. To exploit anyone in this way smakes of explotation of the very worse sort.

  13. 15 Costello 08/21/2009 at 2:16 pm

    If you aren’t willing to work as an unpaid intern you are perfectly free not to apply for the position.

    Forcing everyone to apply the minimum wage laws to voluntary work – leaving aside the fact that what people choose to do with their own time is (or should be) purely their own business – and these positions will not exist. Either way, you won’t be taking the position if you aren’t willing to do it unpaid as it only exists because there are people willing to trade their time for this kind of valuable work experience.

    • 16 Jonathan 08/21/2009 at 2:31 pm

      Wrong – “voluntary work” is exempt from minimum wage law but it applies o charitable organisations.
      Companies are not allowed to make someone work for free if that work would normally be paid if done by someone else. So secretarial work, research, child care, journalism, design, cleaning etc etc require pay. It’s the law. Can’t see why you’re arguing about it.

  14. 17 Costello 08/21/2009 at 2:22 pm

    “It’s not “up to you”. That decision also affects the person whose job you just took. How would you feel if you turned up for work one day and found you were redundant because someone had offered to do it for nothing?”

    Oh well that’s fair enough then isn’t it Jonathan? The next time a friend, a relative, or indeed anyone i randomly bump into asks me to help them with anything – be it giving them a lift somewhere, chipping in with a bit of DIY or driving them to the hospital because they’re having a stroke – i’ll do the moral thing and tell them to fuck right off unless they pay me. After all i would otherwise be undercutting the various professionals (Taxi driver/Carpenter/Ambulance driver) who make a living by providing the relevant services for each request amn’t i?

    The way you socialists are obsessed with controlling every aspect of other peoples lives is truly, truly disgusting.

    • 18 Jonathan 08/21/2009 at 2:38 pm

      Don’t be a fool. You know that doing favours for your friends is not covered. I can’t believe you really think the argument extends to that.
      And interning isn’t the same as doing a favour for a mate, it’s about providing skill and labour. Like ambulance drivers, taxis, carpenters and so on. Would you expect them to work for free? Of course not.

      In case you don’t know the difference between socialism and capitalism, expecting people to work for pay is capitalism. It was at the heart of “small business” Thatcherism.
      Hoping that people might work in exchange for equal labour is communism. What you’re spouting is closer to communism than capitalism.

      What I’m in favour of is sure people who cannot work are supported, and those who are exploited are defended. If that’s socialism then great, I’m a socialist.

      • 19 Costello 08/21/2009 at 3:01 pm

        Nonsense Jonathan. The principle is, of course, the same and your inconsistency simply underlines how ridiculous your position is.

        “You know that doing favours for your friends is not covered”

        Oh so nepotism is perfectly alright then? Had Phil Hammond simply appointed a friend, or the child of a friend, to this internship as a favour rather than advertising it openly you’d be A OK with it? Of course you bloody well wouldn’t.

        As for your smugly irrelevant little contrast of ‘socialism’ and ‘capitalism’ the issue is freedom. It is no business of yours whether or not somebody else actively wishes to, or is simply willing to, work for a small wage or without any payment whatsoever. What you are in favour of is restricting the liberty of others for the sake of your own political leanings, nothing more.

        You can try to camouflage your authoritarian bias in all the morally fluffy wording socialists are famed for – and the suggestion that being in favour of unpaid internships is equivalent to wanting everyone to have to work for free is too idiotic to be worth further comment – but it doesn’t change the fact that you cannot abide others making choices, for themselves, which might not fit with your personal politics.

  15. 20 Yosemite Sam 08/21/2009 at 4:10 pm

    I am a little long in the tooth to have a direct interest in the debate, but I would suggest that if someone is an unpaid volunteer he or she cannot be unvolunteered by anyone else. There are huge numbers of unpaid volunteers in this country, many work ‘set’ hours and interact with professional staff on a regular basis. Let me give two examples: Citizens Advice Bureau counselling staff, who normally do a day a week. Lay magistrates, who usually sit between a day a fortnight and a day every three weeks (some more frequently). There are 30000 of those in England and Wales. I can think of other examples as well. In my experience these people are proud to be volunteers, and most would be outraged to find themselves unvolunteered and paid the minimum wage. They would probably resign on mass.

    • 21 Jonathan 08/21/2009 at 4:25 pm

      CAB workers, charity workers, lay magistrates etc are “volunteers” under minimum wage law. They are doing work that is not normally paid and, in the case of CAB and other charities, could not be paid if the charity’s everyday activity were to continue.

      Interns are not volunteers. They are doing work for which the person “employing” them receives benefit. The issue with internships is simple: many interns are doing work for which they would normally be paid. In many cases (the design industry for example) the internship is either an extended job interview, with the “lucky” intern being offered a job when a vacancy arises, or covering for a vacancy that the employer doesn’t want to pay to be filled (e.g. maternity or holiday cover, or contributing to a limited-life project).

      There is no attempt to “unvolunteer” anyone, except those who aren’t “volunteering” but being forced to play an uncertain and unfair game.

  16. 22 Yosemite Sam 08/21/2009 at 7:06 pm

    Jonathan
    I think the story is more complex than you suggest. Lets take lay magistrates for example. There are paid magistrates – they used to be called Stipendiary Magistrates, they are now called District Judges, but they have they same powers, legal responsibilities as lay magistrates – no more, no less. DJ’s are paid (very well), Lay magistrates are not. The training is the same in both cases. The criminal justice system receives benefit. In any case, one has to be careful about comparisons. My wife helps in an Oxfam Shop, she is not paid for two days work per week. She would not want to be paid. But just down the road is a little second hand bookshop where the assistant is definitely paid. Should my wife receive the minimum wage, or should the girl down the road get nothing. Or should my wife be prevented from helping Oxfam. Benefit accrues to all. At the end of the day, in a free society, we are all volunteers. If somebody wants to give time to Philip Hammond, or any other MP, why should they not? As a PostScript, I am among a dwindling band of people who knows what compulsory volunteering looks like – it was called NATIONAL SERVICE.

    • 23 Jonathan 08/21/2009 at 9:04 pm

      It’s actually very simple. The law states very clearly that the work that Hammond is wanting someone to do for him should be paid. It doesn’t come under “volunteer” because he is not a charity, he is a salaried public official with an allowance to pay staff.
      (His constituency party, of course, has volunteers. I used to work for my local Conservative MP in a voluntary manner but the moment it became something more important than stuffing envelopes, I got paid).
      The job he has advertised goes way beyond “volunteer”.

      Parliamentary rules also state that interns should be paid.

      He is breaking parliamentary rules, he is breaking the law. There can be no debate about that and I’m amazed that there is.

      The matter of whether to pay shop workers or collectors or fund-raisers is a matter for charities. They do not have to, but many do. I think most pay their managers and you do get variations – it usually depends on the duties required, or the “benefit” returned. For example a salaried member of staff may be expected to “pay their way” through encouraging more donations or managing other staff. An unpaid volunteer shouldn’t be expected to do anything other than stock shelves and man the till (they do, of course, often do much much more).

      But that is not affected by this story. Note it is about “Interns” not “volunteers”. The term is the key here. Hammond advertised for an intern. That is a salaried position. The law is very clear.
      If he had asked for a volunteer, he wouldn’t be in the mess he’s in – though he would then come under (legitimate) scrutiny for something else: if the volunteer were a party supporter that’s one thing. If not, then he would need to demonstrate some form of charitable status.

      I’m afraid the issue of magistrates is a red herring here. They are quite separate, they do not come under minimum wage legislation, they come under a different category. Magistrates are given thorough training and paid expenses. They are protected (IIRC) so that employers have to give time for magistrate duties, as with the TA. There are many public roles that are similar (you can find them on the government web sites) such as public standards officers and convenors. These will often carry a stipend if they require days per month of work (often quite generous except perhaps to the people that tend to end up in such roles). But more often they will not. I was a school governor in two primary schools for no remuneration. That’s a volunteer, community service role.

      But interns are not. They are the first steps in a career. They are often the only means to enter certain professions. They are usually hard work. If they are not paid they make entry to certain professions the privilege of the well-off or the time-rich. This was backed up in a recent study which received front page coverage a few weeks ago.
      Being an unpaid intern is not an option if you are not able to support yourself, or based locally.
      They are unfair and inequitable.
      They are also illegal.

  17. 24 Disgruntled 08/23/2009 at 12:51 pm

    Amazing isn’t it, how the people who use and abuse interns are the very people who are likely to be of an age never to have been an intern themselves? Oh, sure, a couple of weeks work experience shadowing and making tea aged 16, but not 6 months doing a full-time job after getting a flipping degree. I love the idea that we somehow have a choice in the matter. I have a 2.1 from Oxford and two MAs under my belt and I still have to work for free if I want a job that uses my brain. I have applied for unskilled work (see the “stacking shelves” suggestion made by some helpful correspondents) but can’t get those jobs either because I’m over-qualified.

    Personally I think all this has a lot to do with older people’s attitude to the young which verges on poisonous hatred… “Serves them right for being slim, wrinke-free, with better grades than I had (only due to grade inflation, they’re too stupid to get them on their own), still with all their hair, shagging around like animals, robbing grannies, so lazy they can’t get out of bed, so selfish they want a job, perhaps they even want my job, well we’ll soon see about that..” Sound familiar?

  18. 25 Anon 05/17/2010 at 3:48 am

    At one time I was apparently the lowest paid full-time member of staff in the constituencies, earning even less than the tea ladies at the HOC – despite a degree and 10 years specialist advice training. Admittedly this wasn’t an unpaid intern’s post but I had already spent 18 months working for nothing in order to get the necessary training to become a competent caseworker via the CAB. However, both experiences were ultimately very beneficial for my career – and my earning capacity.

    I’m not sure where the line is between effectively paying for training and contacts – which one might argue we already do via tuition fees etc – and being “taken advantage of” via Parliamentary internships. I guess your view on this depends on whether you feel there will be a longer term advantage to your career from being an intern or not. Maybe it’s not a question of right or wrong, but one of choosing between the short-term or longer-term view?

    In my experience supply always outstrips demand for internships working with MPs – so applicants must see them as a benefit to their CVs and work prospects. Ultimately I have never met an intern who had been forced into the post, rather they had often deluged the office begging for the opportunity…

    My only concern about unpaid internships at the HOC as opposed to in the constituencies is that the lack of pay and the costs of living in London will undoubtedly act as a deterrent to interns from poorer backgrounds, and yet it’s vital that MPs are in touch with people from all walks of life if they are not to become complacent and out of touch. In my opinion, it helps if some of those people are on the MP’s own staff payroll.

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