Refusing mandatory National Service won’t lead to prison, home secretary says after Tory policy launch | Politics News

No one would be incarcerated for refusing to adhere to National Service under a Conservative administration, the home secretary has affirmed. In the Conservatives’ initial policy declaration of the general election campaign, Rishi Sunak declared on Saturday he would establish a novel form of compulsory National Service for 18-year-olds if his party secures victory in July.
They would have the option of a full-time military assignment for 12 months or a program to volunteer for one weekend monthly for a year. The announcement occurred two days post defence minister Dr Andrew Murrison informing the Commons the government has “no plans” to reintroduce National Service and doing so would “deteriorate morale, recruitment, and retention, and would consume professional military and naval resources”. General election latest: Tories criticize Starmer’s ‘endurance’
The military selection would be optional, but doubts have emerged regarding whether any teenager who opts out would face penalties. Speaking to Sky News’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips, Home Secretary James Cleverly stated: “There’s going to be no criminal sanctions, nobody’s going to jail over this.” He added that “nobody will be forced to undertake the military element” but mentioned those who do will receive compensation – while those who opt to volunteer will not receive payment. Read more: Which countries have already implemented National Service? National Service policy pledge ridiculed as ‘deeply cynical’ Analysis: Defence seldom determines UK elections

File pic: PA

Mr Cleverly mentioned the main objective of the policy is to ensure “individuals interact with those outside their usual circles” for “community integration”. He said those who pick the military option “will be inspired to join the military” after spending a year with the Armed Forces. Mr Sunak published a video on TikTok on Sunday elaborating the new policy to young people. Mr Cleverly stated: “We want to create a society where individuals interact with those outside their own communities, from varying backgrounds, different religions, and diverse income levels.” The central aim is to foster a cohesive society where people extend beyond their usual circles. The Conservatives indicated the National Service program would cost £2.5bn annually and would be financed by funds previously allocated to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and efforts to clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance.

What does national service mean from a military viewpoint?

Sean Bell

Military Analyst

The prime minister’s strategy has dominated headlines, but from a military perspective, what has been revealed?
For the vast majority of 18-year-olds, this initiative would entail completing their National Service in support of societal initiatives, involving a weekend’s dedication each month. Nonetheless, around 30,000 would be offered complete placements in the armed forces, with apprehensions that this might include conscription.
Rishi Sunak referred to Sweden as a case where the proposed initiative has been successful. However, it is always risky to compare the military needs and capabilities of different nations. Sweden has traditionally opted for neutrality as a defense strategy, so conscription enables it to maintain a relatively small military while also developing a broader pool of experience in the form of reservists.
However, the UK has several overseas territories to safeguard – such as the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, and Cyprus – and historically the UK government has deployed its military overseas, with engagements in Iraq, Afghanistan, and recently, the Red Sea. Consequently, the UK requires professional, highly motivated, and efficient military forces, round-the-clock.
National Service does offer some benefits. It raises the proportion of the civilian population with military experience – who can then serve as reservists – and military training equips new entrants with life skills such as respect, self-discipline, and leadership. It is also a method of promptly increasing numbers – albeit at a lowered quality.
With the UK confronted by a mounting global threat, most defense specialists believe that the UK needs to enhance its operational capability – “sharpen its sword” – rather than re-directing its military efforts towards training 18-year-olds on behalf of wider society.
Despite the potential advantages, the UK military has not previously supported the conscript model as past experience indicates it risks lowering morale, undermining professionalism, reducing quality, and thus jeopardizing lives.

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Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Liz Kendall criticized the policy as “yet another unfunded spending commitment”. She stated on Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: “That UK Prosperity Fund is meant to address economic inactivity and aid people in returning to work, thus undermining another of their claims.” This is an unfunded pledge, a headline-grabbing stunt.” She further noted that it does not tackle the significant challenges young people face, emphasizing Labour has a “fully costed, fully funded strategy to provide young people with genuine opportunities they need to progress”.

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