Tories pledge to bring in mandatory national service for 18-year-olds if they win general election

The Conservative party would bring back mandatory national service for young adults if they win the general election.

Plans are currently being drawn up for 18-year-olds to either join the military full-time or volunteer one weekend every month carrying out community service.

Aimed for the first teenagers to take part in September 2023, Rishi Sunak is said to believe compulsory service would help foster the “national spirit” that emerged during the pandemic.

The prime minister said: “This is a great country but generations of young people have not had the opportunities or experience they deserve and there are forces trying to divide our society in this increasingly uncertain world.

“I have a clear plan to address this and secure our future. I will bring in a new model of national service to create a shared sense of purpose among our young people and a renewed sense of pride in our country.

“This new, mandatory national service will provide life-changing opportunities for our young people, offering them the chance to learn real world skills, do new things and contribute to their community and our country.”

Those who opt not to join the military and volunteer instead would carry out duties such as joining the St John’s Ambulance or helping to build flood defences.

The Prime Minister is seeking to draw a dividing line with Labour on global security following his pledge to raise defence spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product by 2030.

Heightening his attack on Saturday, Mr Sunak said voters would be left “at risk” with Sir Keir Starmer in Number 10 because Britain’s enemies would notice that he “doesn’t have a plan”.

Teenagers who choose to sign up for a placement in the forces would “learn and take part in logistics, cyber security, procurement or civil response operations”, the Tories said.

A Royal Commission has been proposed to consider the details, with the cost expected to be around £2.5bn a year.

A source close to the Tories said that the scheme could help the one million unemployed young adults aged between 18 and 24 find new skills.

National service is compulsory in a number of European countries, including the Baltic states, Greece, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

It was last in force in the UK in 1963 but recent comments from top military officials in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reignited the debate.

Number 10 has previously ruled out any suggestion conscription was under consideration, saying there were “no plans” to change the British military’s “proud tradition of being a voluntary force”.

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