Intern Summit in Parliament

Last Monday over 100 interns, MPs and lobbyists gathered together to discuss the state of internships in Westminster. Interns Anonymous had a vested interest in the proceedings- we have supported Phil Willis and his attempts to clean up the Parliamentary system from the off, and were showing a clip of our documentary after the speakers.

Those giving speeches at the event included Speaker Bercow, Charles Clarke, David Willets and NUS President Wes Streeting. Dan Whittle, president of the parliamentary branch of Unite hosted the evening and also spoke. Audio clips of the evening are included below, but I will also offer some thoughts on the evening (albeit belatedly). [Technical problems with the audio clips... but they will be online eventually]

The most eagerly anticipated contribution came from Speaker Bercow, who chairs the Members’ Estimates Committee. The Committee will be looking at MPs expenses and pay, including staffing allowances and hopefully the question of interns pay too. Phil Willis made a formal request to the Committee to look at the issue of internships after this meeting.

Bercow himself demonstrated many of the negative traits mentioned during his speaker-campaign. He spoke for a long time, using convoluted sentences when only a few words were required. Most frustrating of all, he shied away from making a commitment to reform.

However, I can see why he does not want to pre-empt policy. He finished by saying: ‘This will not go away, it cannot be brushed under the carpet… I am listening’.

To get a figure of his stature at the event was certainly a coup. And Phil Willis and his team should be praised for engaging with him on the issue. It certainly fits into the wider parliamentary reform agenda.

David Willets acknowledged the dicey legal issues many MPs are dealing with in their recruitment of interns. Having admitted it’s a legal grey area… if he does have interns, I hope he pays them.

Phil Willis, who came out of the meeting head and shoulders above anyone else, said

“Interns are now an integral part in the staffing structure of our Parliament, it’s essential to kick-on and ensure that they not only receive the appropriate recognition for their contribution, but that the authorities develop a kite mark or minimum standard for internships to ensure that they get a really first class experience and appropriate reward.”

Be it minimum wage, or the guarantee of a great experience, I think this is an excellent place to start.

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