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UK Government announces plans to reintroduce ‘national service’

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The UK Government says the policy would require young people to join the military or “serve their community” through volunteering with emergency services.
The UK Government has announced it will enforce mandatory “national service” if it wins the next election.

The UK Government has announced it will enforce mandatory “national service” if it wins the next election.

According to a proposal by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, young people would be required to join the military or “serve their community” by volunteering with emergency services.

The PM’s plan comes after he called an election for 4 July.

The Labour Opposition has called the proposal a “desperate” political move.

Conscription

During the World Wars, it was mandatory for young men in the UK to serve in the military.

In 1949, the UK Government introduced a period of mandatory military training for men aged 17 to 21, called “national service”. The policy ended in 1960.

Earlier this year, the head of the UK military called for military training for citizens, over concerns around Russia’s continued attacks on Ukraine.

Sunak’s Government rejected the idea at the time, and said a full military call-up was not on the cards.

The policy

Sunak said that “every 18-year-old will get the choice of how they do their national service.”

This could include 12 months with the armed forces, or community volunteering with a body like the National Health Service or firefighting services.

A Royal Commission would determine the details of the plan before a trial in September 2025.

The plan would include ‘non-criminal sanctions’ for young people who refuse to participate in the program.

The Government is yet to provide further details of what these penalties would look like.

It’s estimated the scheme would cost £2.5 billion ($AU4.8b).

This policy will not be enforced if the Conservatives lose the July election. Polling suggests this is likely.

Rishi Sunak

Sunak said the service would provide “valuable work experience”.

“By building on this spirit of community, this bold action will enable young people to give back to the communities that raised them,” he said.

Sunak also referenced neighbouring European countries Sweden, Finland and Norway, which have forms of mandatory military service.

Opposition

An Opposition spokesperson told the BBC that Sunak’s plan was expensive and poorly considered.

The Liberal Democrats, a minor party, accused the Government of underfunding the UK’s armed forces.

MP Richard Foord said that if the Conservatives were “really concerned about defence,” they would reverse army spending cuts, rather than introduce a “gimmick”.

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