Nick Clegg has vowed to pay Westminster interns and stamp out nepotism when it comes to them securing a role.

Clegg, the deputy prime minister, says he no longer wants people to get internships in the houses of parliament just because their parents “whisper in the ear” of the right person at their golf or tennis club.

A former intern himself, Clegg also says he plans to give “proper remuneration” to anyone who secures a work placement with his party.

Clegg’s announcement has been welcomed by Jonny Medland, who worked for Clegg for free for three months in 2007. Clegg was the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman at the time.

Medland wrote on the BBC News website: “They should definitely be paying people – every party should.

“If you’re working for eight hours a day for weeks on end I struggle to see how you can defend not paying people.”

Medland, who is now a member of the Labour Party and on his way to becoming a lawyer, has no complaints about working for the now deputy PM – apart from the lack of salary.

“He didn’t have a big staff so there was quite a lot of stuff to do. Research on things that were going through the Commons, drafting articles for local and national press, general correspondence work with constituents. The sort of stuff I imagine all MPs’ interns are doing.

“It was really enjoyable. It was a very nice office. I was given a lot to do and was made to feel quite valuable. It definitely wasn’t the case that we were exploited – we got a lot of good experience in return.

“Nick Clegg was out of the office quite a lot in his constituency but he was very good to work for. He was a very pleasant guy.”

The Liberal Democrats said they would start paying interns at their party HQ after Mr Clegg’s speech on Tuesday.

But a party spokesman told the BBC it would not happen straight away – and campaigners claim the party is currently advertising for a dozen unpaid interns.

There is a veritable army of 450 or so ambitious young interns who currently work at Westminster for next to nothing.

Clegg’s pledge does not extend to interns working in the Parliamentary offices of Lib Dem MPs.

Many MPs advertise for internships on the website

Conservative MP Aidan Burley wants an intern for at least three months, with “Reasonable travel expenses” as a sweetener.

And Labour’s Rachel Reeves is offering two internships, 3-5 days a week, minimum three months, for “lunch and travel expenses”.

Research by the Unite union in 2009 suggested that parliamentary interns carried out about 18,000 hours of unpaid work each week and 44% did not even receive travel and food expenses.

Ben Lyons – a former intern himself, although not in Westminster – co-founded campaign group Intern Aware.

“It’s absolutely appalling,” he said.

“We allow for interns to be paid or unpaid, and it’s up to MPs which they choose.

“It’s basically impossible to start a career in Westminster unless you work for free and surely that’s having a big impact on our democracy because the only people who can do that are middle class kids from London.

Intern Aware has written to more than 20 MPs who have recently advertised for unpaid workers, warning them they could be breaking the law by not paying the minimum wage.

Most have not replied, but two who have are Conservative Jake Berry and Labour’s Chuka Umunna.

Mr Berry said his internships were “more along the lines of work experience”.

“It’s a great experience, and if no-one wants it, no-one will take it. I do not believe in wasting taxpayers’ money, so if someone wants the experience, great,” he said.

All MPs have a staffing budget of £115,000 a year – ministers get more on top of that – and how they choose to allocate that money is up to them.