Labour’s Chuka Umunna defends advert asking University of Leeds students to work for free

Students were asked to work for free in the advert circulated at the University of Leeds.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Students were asked to work for free in the advert circulated at the University of Leeds. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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A Labour MP has defended an advert circulated at a university in Leeds for a student to work for free in his London office.

Chuka Umunna said his notice sent to University of Leeds students was for someone on a “sandwich” degree course who would be supported by student finance, and that he was not seeking an unpaid intern.

But he was criticised on social media by some students, prompting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to remind all of his MPs not to employ unpaid interns.

Mr Umunna, who has criticised Mr Corbyn in the past and who is opposed to the party’s policy on Brexit, has campaigned for fairer wages for the low paid.

The ad, for a year in industry student placement, listed duties such as “administrative support”, organising “a wide variety of policy issues and constituent enquiries” and “EU campaign work”.

It said the placement was unpaid but the cost of a student travel card - worth about £1,000 a year - will be covered.

Mr Umunna said in a statement: “The Leeds University placement is a structured part of politics sandwich-course degrees at the university, and takes place on the strict condition that students receive Student Finance 
throughout.

“The scheme, and others like it, are run collaboratively by MPs and universities, and gives students supported work experience as part of their university degree.”

He added: “I do not and would not offer a long-term placement where a student is not supported and left financially penalised.”