Boris Johnson has turned his back on social mobility, says Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham who has brought a bill to the House of Commons with support from the Sutton Trust to further restrict unpaid work experience which will have its second reading in Parliament on Friday 11th September.

Last year, Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke brought the exact same bill to the Commons in the form of a private members bill, and he asked a question in the Commons to the Prime Minster on whether he supported his Bill. The Prime Minister said he did support Shelbrooke’s campaign, and spoke about the importance of social mobility, but unfortunately that Bill did not receive a hearing in the Commons.

Yet the Prime Minister has now distanced himself from his previous comments, with a Business department Minister writing to Alex Cunningham to say that the Government’s position is now that existing legislation is sufficient to tackle unpaid internships and long periods of work experience. This is despite the Government’s response to the Taylor Review of Modern Working practices committing themselves to “introducing new guidance and targeted enforcement activity to help stamp out illegal and exploitative unpaid internships”.

Information received through a Parliamentary Question from June shows that since 2007, HMRC investigations have led to 15 successful prosecutions of employers for National Minimum Wage related offences. Yet there have been no prosecutions relating to internship cases, despite more than 150 complaints received by HMRC from workers undertaking unpaid internships

Speaking about Boris Johnson’s u-turn on his support for the Bill, Alex Cunningham said:

“When he served as the Mayor of London, the Prime Minister said that he wanted to tackle unpaid internships. The Prime Minister also said in July last year that he backed this exact Bill which was in the name of Alec Shelbrooke MP.

“But now, it seems that instead of backing it, he has backed out.”

“Boris Johnson will never know what it feels like to be a young person in my constituency, trying to get their foot on the ladder in the career, but struggling because their wealthier counterparts already have 6 months experiencing from carrying out an unpaid experience. It isn’t fair, it isn’t just. Yet we know from information from the Government that they aren’t cracking down on it with no prosecutions having taken place.

“Existing legislation is not sufficient, but they’re burying their heads in the sand.”