When would national service come in, who will have to do it and would you have to join the Army?

national service rishi sunak general election 2024
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images - Matt Cardy)

In the first major policy announcement ahead of the General Election, Rishi Sunak has said 18-year-olds would be forced to carry out a form of national service if the Conservative are voted back in. The Prime Minister pledged to get them to either join the military for 12 months or do 'volunteer' work one weekend a month for a year.

Home Secretary James Cleverly stated: "This is about dealing with what we know to be the case, which is social fragmentation. Too many young people live in a bubble within their own communities.

"They don't mix with people of different religions, they don't mix with different viewpoints." But what exactly would national service consist of? We take a look below at what we know so far.

READ MORE: Spitfire pilot dies in crash just weeks before King's birthday flypast over London

Rishi Sunak walking along Downing Street with a folder in his hand
Rishi Sunak has made his first major policy announcement of the election campaign -Credit:Getty Images - Leon Neal

When would national service come in?

A form of national service will be introduced if the Conservatives are voted back in at the next General Election. The party said a royal commission, bringing in expertise from across the military and civil society, would be tasked with bringing forward a proposal for how to ensure the first pilot is open for applications in September 2025.

After that, it would seek to introduce a new 'National Service Act' to make the measures compulsory by the end of the next Parliament. It's estimated that the programme will cost £2.5 billion a year by the end of the decade.

Who would have to do it?

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

He added: "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."

Would you have to join the armed forces?

Teenagers who choose to sign up for a placement in the forces would "learn and take part in logistics, cyber security, procurement or civil response operations", the Tories stated. However, they can also choose to volunteer in their own communities one weekend a month for a year.

This could include helping local fire, police and NHS services as well as charities tackling loneliness and supporting elderly, isolated people. Home Secretary James Cleverly said the party would ensure the scheme "fits with different people's attitudes and aspirations" after questions arose over whether teenagers would be punished for not taking part. He has said the Government is looking at ways to incentivise people to take part rather than criminal punishment for not doing so.

Get the biggest stories from around London straight to your inbox. Sign up to MyLondon's The 12 HERE for the 12 biggest stories each day.