National Service: What is Rishi Sunak’s plan, is it mandatory and how will it work?

National Service UK
The last mandatory National Service scheme ended in 1960 - Harry Todd/Hulton Archive

Rishi Sunak has vowed to bring back National Service for 18-year-olds. Under the mandatory scheme, teenagers will have to enrol in the military for 12 months – or spend one weekend each month volunteering in their community.

A new Royal Commission will design the programme, with a pilot scheme opening for applications in September 2025, ahead of a national rollout by 2029.

Here, The Telegraph takes a look at some key questions about the plans.

Will 18-year-olds at university be exempt or allowed to defer?

No. Everyone will have to do National Service and fit it around their lives. There will be very limited deferments and none for university students.

What if the young person has a job?

There will be no exemption for those who are in work.

What if they are on a gap year abroad?

This will not be a reason for exemption and those abroad will be expected to do their National Service alongside any travel.

What if they already work in the emergency services, prison or care sectors?

The Royal Commission will look at exemptions, including where people are already working in the military. But the starting point remains that all people serve.

What if the young person has unpaid caring commitments?

The Royal Commission will aim to ensure everyone can take part.

Will the royal children be expected to take part?

Yes – everyone will be expected to undergo National Service.

Will the scheme apply in Northern Ireland?

Yes – although the Royal Commission will consider how to manage any sensitivities surrounding National Service.

What if not enough people apply for the military placement?

The Tories have argued similar schemes in other countries have a very high take-up rate, suggesting they don’t expect this to be a problem.