Minister said there were ‘no plans’ for national service policy three days ago

Defence minister Andrew Murrison said national service could ‘damage morale’ if introduced

Holly Evans
Sunday 26 May 2024 17:36 BST
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Andrew Murrison rejected the plans for national service two days before Sunak’s announcement
Andrew Murrison rejected the plans for national service two days before Sunak’s announcement (PA)

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A Tory minister rejected the prospect of national service just two days before Rishi Sunak announced his party would introduce it for teenagers if they win the general election.

Responding to a written parliamentary question, defence minister Andrew Murrison said there were “no plans” to introduce the controversial policy.

The MP, who represents South West Wiltshire, added that it could damage morale if “potentially unwilling” recruits were forced to serve alongside armed forces personnel.

However on Saturday, the prime minister announced plans to make 18-year-olds take part in a form of “mandatory” national service, either on a 12-month placement in the military or by doing volunteer work.

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Rishi Sunak proposed the introduction of national service for 18-year-olds
Rishi Sunak proposed the introduction of national service for 18-year-olds (PA Wire)

The armed forces option would be selective – with some 30,000 placements for “the brightest and best”, the Conservatives said.

The prime minister added the programme would help unite society in an “increasingly uncertain world” and give young people a “shared sense of purpose”.

In a statement published on Thursday, after Mr Sunak had called a July 4 election, Mr Murrison had said: “If potentially unwilling national service recruits were to be obliged to serve alongside the professional men and women of our armed forces, it could damage morale, recruitment and retention and would consume professional military and naval resources.

“If, on the other hand, national service recruits were kept in separate units, it would be difficult to find a proper and meaningful role for them, potentially harming motivation and discipline.

“For all these reasons, there are no current plans for the restoration of any form of national service.”

Home secretary James Cleverly stressed teenagers would not be sent to jail for refusing to participate
Home secretary James Cleverly stressed teenagers would not be sent to jail for refusing to participate (PA Wire)

The Conservatives said they would establish a royal commission bringing in expertise from across the military and civil society to establish the details of what they described as the “bold” national service programme.

This would be with the aim of the first batch of participants taking part in the scheme in September 2025.

Home secretary James Cleverly stressed that teenagers would not be sent to jail for defying the Tories’ proposed “mandatory” scheme.

A Labour spokesperson said: “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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