UK’s Sunak promises mandatory national service for 18-year-olds if elected | Politics News

The ruling Conservative Party says it will reinstate national service if it wins the July 4 general election.

Eighteen-year-olds will have to undertake compulsory national service if the Conservative Party returns to power in the UK’s July 4 election, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced.

The UK has “generations of young people who have not had the opportunities they deserve”, and this measure would help unite society in an “increasingly uncertain world”, Sunak said on Saturday.

The prime minister’s plan would see young people choosing between a full-time role in the armed forces for 12 months or spending one weekend a month for a year volunteering in their community, the party said.

The announcement came as the Conservatives prepare for the election, intensifying their attacks on the opposition Labor Party.

The United Kingdom had national service between 1947 and 1960, with men aged 17 to 21 serving in the armed forces for 18 months. The British army has reduced its size from 100,000 in 2010 to almost 73,000 in January 2024, the BBC reported.

The Conservative Party said joining the armed forces would help teenagers “learn and participate in logistics, cybersecurity, procurement or civil response operations.”

The community service option would involve helping local firefighters, police and the UK’s National Health Service, as well as charities fighting loneliness for older and isolated people. The program would cost approximately 2.5 billion pounds ($3.2 billion) a year, the BBC reported.

A royal commission, with experts from civil society and the military, would be created to design the national service programme.

The first pilot of the program would open applications in September 2025. After that, the Conservatives would introduce a “National Service Law” to make the measures mandatory at the end of the next legislature.

Conservatives have insisted that the plan does not amount to conscription, The Guardian reported.

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

“The consequences of uncertainty are clear. No plan means a more dangerous world. “You, your family and our country are at risk if Labor wins,” he added.

Labor called the announcement “another desperate, underfunded compromise” and said Foreign Secretary David Cameron introduced a similar scheme – the National Citizen Service – when he was prime minister.

A Labor spokesman said: “This is not a plan, it is a review which could cost billions and is only necessary because the Conservatives have gutted the armed forces to their smallest size since Napoleon.”

“Britain is fed up with the Tories, who are out of ideas and have no plans to end 14 years of chaos. “It is time to turn the page and rebuild Britain with the Labor Party.”

Several European countries, including Sweden, Norway and Denmark, already have some form of conscription in their armed forces.

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