Tony Blair's private office has said it will pay interns the minimum wage after the former prime minister was reported to HM Revenue and Customs over its recruitment of unpaid workers.
Although the tax authorities could not confirm whether or not the claims were being investigated, the Office of Tony Blair, which manages his private businesses, issued the following statement last night:
“Over the past five years the Office of Tony Blair has had a small number of voluntary interns gaining work experience in the organisation. The vast majority came to us at their request, unadvertised, for voluntary work.
"Of those, a number have since become full-time paid employees with us. We have also always acted on legal advice in respect of any intern.
“Nonetheless from now on, if we do have interns for an extended period, i.e. around three months, we will pay them the National Minimum Wage.
"Two of the charities do have voluntary intern programmes. As independent charities they pay expenses.”
Tony Blair's office has reversed its policy and has decided to pay interns the minimum wage
His private offices were reported to tax authorities earlier this week after a graduate revealed he was rejected as he could not afford to work for free.
"The Office of Tony Blair is not a charity," a spokesperson told The Guardian. "Each internship lasts for around three months and is designed to give young people valuable experience in a high profile and fast moving work environment.
"Our interns are volunteers."
However pressure was heaped on the organisation after details were handed to HMRC and published in the Guardian and on the Graduate Fog website.
Under Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) guidelines, advertising for an unpaid intern is not illegal. Whether or not someone is entitled to be paid the NMW depends on whether or not they are a "worker".
Blair is thought to receive an prime ministerial pension of £70,000 and a public allowance of £110,000. His annual income was estimated at £20m last year by the Financial Times.
The HMRC spokesperson told the Huffington Post UK it was unable to say whether or not it was investigating the claims, however it did say: "Where we have reason to believe the rules are being abused we will investigate. We always act on allegations of NMW abuse."
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