Hansard: The charity charging £8000 for an internship

The Hansard Society has come under fire from the TUC after it emerged that the politics charity is charging undergraduates £8000 for internships as part of a “scholarship” programme.
A number of prestigious placements at political bodies are only available through Hansard’s expensive programme.
TUC policy adviser, Peter Sellers, condemned the organisation for presenting the opportunity to an exclusive group of young adults. “People should be paid to do jobs, not unpaid.” Sellers said. “You shouldn’t have to pay a fee to access work. If you have to pay a toll of £8000 in order to get a very desirable internship, that’s going to exclude a lot of people in the UK who come from poorer backgrounds.”

The Hansard Society is a registered charity, which has in the past year received support from BBC Parliament, the Cabinet Office, Speaker of the House, Department of Energy and Climate Change, Microsoft, Ministry of Justice, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons.

The Hansard Society describes itself as “The UK’s leading independent, non-partisan political research and education charity”, claiming its aim is to “strengthen parliamentary democracy and encourage greater public involvement in politics.”

Gail Bumbury, programme manager of the scholarship, and manager of the Study and Scholars department at Hansard Society said: “I wouldn’t say the scholarship is geared towards working class people per se. It’s aimed at foreign students who want to learn more about British politics”. When asked if the opportunity was limited to international students alone, Bumbury replied: “No. It is open to anyone who decides to apply”.

Although the scholarship programme may be beneficial to some international students, it is thought to be less of an opportunity to those from minority ethnic backgrounds who identify as British citizens.
“One worry is that because, on average, minorities are over represented among the less well-off such measures are going to be indirectly discriminatory” said Sellers.

A number of high profile politicians hold influence within the Hansard Society, with David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and Ed Miliband all acting as Vice Presidents. Speaker of the House, John Bercow, also holds a place, acting as one of two Co-Presidents. Vice Chairs of the party include Health secretary Andrew Lansley.

Owen Williams, Communications adviser at the House of Lords Press Office denied any link between the government and Hansard, insisting that the Hansard Society’s relationship with both the Government and Parliament generally was no different to that of any other charity “such as Oxfam”.
Williams asserts that government departments funding the charity have no responsibility to put pressure on the organisation to scrap the £8000 internship charge. He said: “Hansard is only political and has nothing to do with parliament. It’s a charity, that’s what you need to understand. The government has no control over it; we are not responsible for Hansard, what they do is entirely for them to answer to” Williams said.

Currently, Parliament itself does not offer internships outside of the Hansard programme.
A spokesperson from the Parliamentary Press Office insisted that there are credible alternatives offered by Parliament for those who have graduated, such as the Civil Service “Fast stream” by which graduates are recruited from universities before undergoing various tests. The scheme has been in practice for many years, but has never been advertised as a social mobility exercise. Applicants must have a first level degree to put themselves forward for the examinations.

The revelations have come at a time when the validity of interning is being increasingly called into question, with some arguing that internships are exploitative. Westminster secretaries for Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband, and David Cameron, refused to comment.

A spokesman for Hansard Society, who did not want to be named, made it clear that they have no plans to lower the price of the scholarship, or offer a bursary to first-year university students who do not have the money to apply. The spokesperson said: “It is not possible for Hansard, as a chargee, to pay a salary for internships.”

“Monsanto broccoli” lands Waitrose and Sainsbury’s in trouble

Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are facing opposition from customers over their decision to stock broccoli supplied by contentious bio-tech company Monsanto.
The GM giant has avoided UK links until recently due to Britain’s apprehension over GMO foods and the EU regulation which bans the crop.
A petition contesting the use of Monsanto products in Waitrose and Sainsbury’s has now gained over 10,000 signatures.
The protest is “one against the company’s ethics”, rather than the nature of the food as Bellaverde broccoli is not genetically modified, said eco-activist Shazzie Love, who spear-headed the campaign.
Monsanto have courted controversy in the US, after hundreds have sued the company over their waste disposal, which has allegedly caused cancer and infertility in thousands of people. The company have also left a legacy in the UK after it hired a contractor to fill an unlined quarry in Cardiff, Wales, with thousands of tonnes of chemicals in the early 1970’s. The waste included dangerous elements of Agent Orange, the compound used in chemical warfare against Vietnam.
The critical campaign began with a facebook photo of the broccoli, warning people that it was produced by Monsanto. It has now been shared 22,302 times. Waitrose’s facebook page has been “inundated” with comments, according to the supermarket’s spokesperson, some of which “had to be deleted for breaching site rules”.
Both Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have refused to comment on whether the broccoli will be discontinued in their stores.

Waitrose and Sainsbury's decision to stock Monsanto's "Bellaverde" broccoli has proved unpopular

WE DID IT.

I need to start by saying thank you.
With your support, a Medway student beat those at Canterbury to become part of Kent Union: something a lot of people didn’t think possible.
Before Monday, next to nobody on our campus knew much about Kent Union, let alone that there was an election. In the space of three days, we  launched an extraordinary campaign. And we won.
Students who had barely used the Kent Union website managed to outvote those in Canterbury; that’s an amazing achievement. It shows just how determined we are to stand up and be counted after all this time.

I couldn’t have done it without the campaign team. Chris Walker and Emily Magdij helped to write voting instructions on the back of every poster when our campaign money couldn’t cover any more “How to” guides. It took us hours and they never once complained.
My fantastic flat mates Jonathon Stevens and Kat Towerton did so much. Jon passed on posters, and spread the word to countless people around campus. Kat shared links every day and told everyone she knew how to vote.
Jacob Roberts-Mensah had an incredible impact. Sometimes I would ask complete strangers if they’d voted and they would reply “Yes. Jacob told me to vote for Maya Esslemont.”
Everybody in the Centre For Journalism was so supportive, with my class always sharing links and encouraging others to vote.Really, I have to say thank you to everyone.

There were literally tens of votes in it, so if you shared the poster on, got your flatmates to vote, or just voted yourself, you made this win possible.

Winning this is just the beginning of things to come. For the first time, we will have a voice within our union.

You have all put so much effort behind this campaign, I hope I can now return the favour.

Thank you so much, Medway.
Maya Esslemont

Why this matters to Kent students on the Medway campus

You won’t be shocked to hear that Canterbury students get more funding than us.
We can see it when we have to wait days for a course-relevant book to become available, because our library is shared with two other universities. Even though our money helped to build a £15 million extension to the Canterbury library.
We can see it when 40 Medway societies are given £500 to split between them, meaning the average society has £12.50 each . Even though our money helps to fund 150 societies at Canterbury.
We can see it when hundreds of students have been disenfranchised because there wasn’t enough financial support for an LGBT society until this year. Even though our money helps to fund society events we have no access to.
What will shock you, is how big the difference is.
Canterbury students get £1.66 per head, whilst we get 70p.
That means over half of our money is being spent on a campus we aren’t able to access.
Societies and course reps in Medway struggle to get enough funding to survive, whilst Kent Union throws a measly amount of money at us, with no direction or care, and hope for the best. Cooper’s makes a loss of £46,000 a year, and Kent students are footing the bill… even though Greenwich owns the lease.
If elected, I will go to every meeting, attend every speech, and vote on every motion passed to ensure that we finally get the representation that we deserve and pay for.
There is no transparency in our Union, with Medway at Canterbury students alike having no idea where their money is going. I will break down spending decisions online, so that all students can see where their money is going, and where their money is being wasted. If you are concerned with decisions made by myself, or others, you will be able to contact me at any time via email, or arrange a meeting to talk about problems facing your society, course, or standard of living. I will make it my mission to never let a problem go without a fight.

Why this matters to Greenwich and Christ Church students

The elections are for Kent Union so, if you are studying at a university which isn’t Kent, you can’t vote. However, a victory for Kent at Medway will most likely be a victory for you too. Improving our shared campus means many more facilities will become available, and an increase in society funding will benefit everybody.
That is why Greenwich and Christ Church students have shown an interest in campaigning to their Kent friends, despite not being able to vote.
If you want to help campaign, or just let me know about a campus issue I can take to the Kent Union, email me at mayaesslemont@gmail.com; I will do everything in my power to fix any problems which make your university experience less enjoyable.

Why this matters for Canterbury students

There are so many problems facing students in Canterbury because of the breakdown in communication between students and those making the key decisions with your money. I’m sure I am not the only student trustee who has the ability to understand financial regulation and make wise decisions. But, we need that and more.
We need somebody who understands the problems facing students well enough to prioritise spending, and understand the system well enough to produce hard-hitting results.
If elected as student trustee, I will make it my mission to break down spending decisions online, so that all students can see where their money is going, and where their money is being wasted. Any students concerned with decisions made by myself or others will be able to contact me at any time and expect a response ASAP.
It’s important for Canterbury that we have a Medway rep. Your union loses £50,000 at Medway each year. That’s because not a single person in the Union is from Medway. How can the board of trustees make efficient decisions, and prevent wasted money, when not a single rep understands the infrastructure? Most people on the council haven’t even been to Medway, let alone understand how to maximise efficiency for it. These unwise spending decisions are affecting us all. It’s time to put a trustee in power who knows what they’re doing, and remembers who they’re working it for.

What is a student trustee?

There are 13 trustees, in total, and two are elected by students. Trustees analyse decisions made by the university and decide whether money is being spent fairly. I plan to outline improvements and take officials up on bad spending choices.
The board of trustees make extremely important spending decisions which affect our courses, social lives, and society funding.

Out of 13 trustees, 4 presidents, and 21 part-time officers, not a single one has ever been from the Medway campus.