Ben Wallace’s favourite defence blogger exposes real cost of Sunak’s National Service plan

A defence blogger and analyst beloved by former defence secretary Ben Wallace has questioned key details about Sunak’s National Service plan

David Maddox
Political editor
Sunday 26 May 2024 20:37 BST
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A former army reservist whose blog has been praised by ex-defence secretary Ben Wallace has ripped apart Rishi Sunak’s plans to reintroduce National Service.

The author of the Thinpinstripe blog is a former civil servant at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and writes under the pseudonym “Sir Humphry”.

His analysis of the Tory pledge to add 30,000 teenagers to the armed forces ranks every year has raised serious questions about the costs of the project.

He warned that bringing an extra 30,000 people into the armed forces would require a roughly 300 percent expansion of the military training pipeline.

Rishi Sunak speaks with British troops in April (PA)
Rishi Sunak speaks with British troops in April (PA) (PA Wire)

He claimed that this means the scheme would require “a significant increase in the military training estate”.

This, according to the analysis, would require training up the “equivalent to the entire annual British military training output every 13 weeks.”

He also warned that the “army has significantly downsized its estate and does not have the ability to train 30,000 people per year as a basic training system.”

Training 300 percent more recruits could “have a direct impact on how the regular military manage and operate their training schedule,” it is claimed.

He also noted that “it is challenging to see’ how the Royal Corps of Signals could take in thousands of extra people in each year due to their size.”

At a time when much much military housing is already below standing, the analysis predicts that the MoD would have to supply a 50 percent increase in Army accommodation, which based on the cost for new bed spaces could cost £4.8bn just on accommodation.

Former defence Secretary Ben Wallace is stepping down as an MP (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Former defence Secretary Ben Wallace is stepping down as an MP (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Archive)

This would also mean that the scheme could have an impact on the Government's vetting capabilities.

Sir Humphry also claimed that just establishing training units directly could cost as much as £1.5bn per year, leaving only £1bn for everything else.

He concluded that: “Brought together, in rough terms, it's hard to see how this policy could be delivered for the stated cost of £2.5bn per year given that even rough calculations are showing that it would cost billions more to deliver both short and long term.”

Previously, Mr Wallace, when he was the Tory defence secretary, has praised this blogger.

Two days ago on X (formerly Twitter) replied to “Sir Humphrey wishing him well in life after parliament, stating: “You can't be bettered and you have always been the voice of reason and exposed the reality behind so many over sensationalised stories. You may not realise it but your blogs helped me to be a better SoS Defence.”

Labour have branded the new National Service policy a “gimmick”.

But home secretary James Cleverly said the plans were aimed at getting young people "out of their bubble" and would not involve the threat of criminal sanctions for those who refuse to comply.

Rishi Sunak pledged to get 18-year-olds to either join the military for 12 months or do "volunteer" work one weekend a month for a year.

The Prime Minister said the policy would help unite society in an "increasingly uncertain world" and give young people a "shared sense of purpose".

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