Rishi Sunak unveils plans for mandatory national service to
inspire ‘pride in our country’

Rishi Sunak unveils plans for mandatory national service to inspire ‘pride in our country’

The Conservative Party has vowed to bring back national service, with new proposals designed to renew a “sense of pride in our country”.

In what amounts to Rishi Sunak’s most significant policy announcement since he called the general election on Wednesday, the plan would see eighteen-year-olds choose between service in the armed forces and volunteering in the community. 

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The first option would see eighteen-year-olds take part in a selective, full-time 12-month placement in the armed forces or UK cyber defence where, the party says, they will learn and take part in logistics, cyber security, procurement or civil response operations

The second option would commit eighteen-year-olds to the equivalent of one weekend per month (25 days per year) of volunteering in their community with organisations such as fire, police and the NHS as well as charities tackling loneliness and supporting older, isolated people.

The Conservatives say the plan will provide valuable work experience and ignite a passion for a future career in healthcare, public service, charity or the armed forces.

As part of the new proposals, the party has committed to establishing a Royal Commission in government, composed of experts from across the armed forces and civil society, to design the “National Service Programme”.  

The Commission, the first such public inquiry to be established this century, would bring forward proposals on how to ensure the first pilot is open for applications in September 2025.

After this, the party plans to introduce a new National Service Act to mandate that every eighteen-year-old will be required to do national service by the end of the following parliament.

When fully rolled out, the Conservatives say the scheme will cost £2.5 billion a year by 2029/2030, £1 billion of which will be funded through the party’s plan to raise an additional £6 billion a year by the end of the next parliament from cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion.

According to the party’s plans, the remaining £1.5 billion would be paid for using funding previously used for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), a levelling up programme which provides local authorities funding for communities. 

The Conservatives say that, if re-elected, they will extend the UKSPF for a further three years; after which, from 2028/29, the funding will be used for the National Service scheme.

Unveiling the new proposals, Rishi Sunak 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.”

Commenting on the proposals, a Labour spokesperson said: “This is another desperate £2.5 billion unfunded commitment from a Tory Party which already crashed the economy, sending mortgages rocketing, and now they’re spoiling for more.

“This is not a plan – it’s a review which could cost billions and is only needed because the Tories hollowed out the Armed Forces to their smallest size since Napoleon.

“Britain has had enough of the Conservatives, who are bankrupt of ideas, and have no plans to end 14 years of chaos. It’s time to turn the page and rebuild Britain with Labour.”

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