West Herts MP David Gauke under scrutiny over unpaid intern advert

MP David Gauke, centre, with students at Longdean School, Hemel Hempstead
MP David Gauke, centre, with students at Longdean School, Hemel Hempstead

The MP for South West Herts has defended an unpaid internship position advertised for his constituency office after being questioned by interns rights groups.

Treasury minister David Gauke has been labelled a ‘hypocrite’ after advertising the post at his constituency office in Rickmansworth on the Work 4 MPs website.

Gauke is responsible for ensuring HM Revenue and Customs clamp down on employers not paying interns minimum wage, but was reported by Intern Aware after the ‘highly suspicious’ advert was brought to their attention.

A successful applicant would have to travel to the office in Rickmansworth – for which they would get ‘reasonable travel expenses’ – and carry out duties such as office admin, political campaigning, fundraising, drafting leaflets and booking constituency appointments – all for free.

Speaking to the Gazette, Mr Gauke defended the six-month post, saying: “Most constituency offices rely on volunteers, and South West Herts Conservatives is no exception.

“It’s advertising an opportunity to learn about office work and I believe it falls outside the scope of the national minimum wage.”

When questioned as to whether the intern would be carrying out the same tasks as paid staff members, he said: “There’s one full-time staff member, and there’s a clear distinction between him and the volunteer, as he’s paid to be there a set number of hours.

“He will be helping the training and the volunteer will be assisting him.

“We have to draw a distinction between a voluntary post in a voluntary organisation and a larger company employing a large number of people for a longer period of time.

While the post states the position is suitable for a student, recent graduate or similar, Mr Gauke said the role was open to volunteers from different life stages and backgrounds.

He said that those who had done it in the past had found it “very enjoyable and useful”.