Ex-M&S boss Sir Stuart Rose who left the job he said he was "married to" with a £8.1 million golden goodbye backed work-for-nothing schemes for jobless youngsters today.
The man who once said "if you pay peanuts, you get a monkey" has defended the government's work experience scheme and accused protesters of trying to sabotage it.
Sir Stuart said it was "baffling" that anyone would complain about jobless youngsters being told to work for free.
"We're offering young people the opportunity to really understand what the workplace is about and it appears there is some plan to sabotage this, which I think is nonsense," he told Sky News.
But the former M&S executive chairman admitted his shop floor experience was brief to say the least.
"When I started off I was put to shelf stacking and indeed to sweeping out the warehouse for a day," he revealed.
Work and consumer groups have been putting pressure on firms to quit the scheme amid accusations that it is "slave labour" because youngsters worked for nothing in return for benefits.
Sir Stuart, who once claimed "M&S was my wife and my mistress," said: "If I was the parent of one of these people I'd say: 'Go on to it, lad, get in there, get stuck in'."
He said firms were apparently being "intimidated" by campaigners. "One or two have shown a little less than backbone."
And ministers are facing fresh questions about how welfare-to-work entrepreneur Emma Harrison came to be appointed David Cameron's "family champion" just a month after fraud allegations were made at her company A4E.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne called on his government counterpart Iain Duncan Smith for more information.
Last week Ms Harrison said she was quitting as an unpaid Downing Street adviser and as chairman of A4E, which won millions of pounds worth of contracts from the government's Work Programme.
A4E issued a statement earlier in the week saying it had uncovered the alleged fraud, relating to four employees who have since left the company, in November 2010.
The fraud allegations are currently under investigation by Thames Valley Police who last month arrested and bailed four people in relation to the case.
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