National Service shock as plans to arrest objecting teens revealed in leaked document

Youngsters could spend a year with the military under the National Service plans
-Credit: (Image: Phil Harris / Daily Mirror)

Conservative plans to bring back mandatory national service are in chaos after a leaked briefing paper suggested teenagers could be arrested for not taking part.

Under Rishi Sunak's proposed new programme all 18-year-olds will be forced to take part. Youngsters would be given a choice between a 12-month full-time placement in the armed forces or spending one weekend a month for a year "volunteering" in their community.

And now it has been revealed that an internal Tory briefing paper on the policy, seen by the Mirror, does not rule out arresting youngsters if they fail to take part.

In a Q&A section of the document, it asks: “Will you arrest people who don’t comply?” The response is: “It is right that those who contribute to our system are duly rewarded, and those who refuse receive none of the benefits. The Royal Commission will explore an appropriate incentives regime.”

The Tories have 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. The party said this commission 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, the party said. It estimates the programme will cost £2.5 billion a year by the end of the decade and plans to fund £1 billion through plans to "crack down on tax avoidance and evasion".

The Tories have said that the remaining £1.5 billion will be paid for with money previously used for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), which is a package to support charities and community groups.

The Prime Minister said: "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."

Opposition critics have dismissed the plans as unserious. Labour pointed out that David Cameron introduced a similar scheme - the National Citizen Service - when he was prime minister. Lord Cameron's announcement had no military component to it, instead encouraging youngsters to take part in activities such as outdoor education-style courses as part of his "Big Society" initiative.

A Labour spokesman 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."

A party source mocked the plans, saying that under the Tories it would be “maths to 18 and then straight off to war”.

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