Rishi Sunak announces a year of National Service for all teenagers if Tories win election

Rishi Sunak has announced that if the Tories are re-elected in the July 4 General Election, 18-year olds would be required to undertake a form of national service. The young individuals would have the option between a full-time placement in the armed forces for 12 months or spending one weekend a month for a year "volunteering," in their community, according to the Tories.

The Prime Minister believes this policy would help unite society in an "increasingly uncertain world" and provide young people with a "shared sense of purpose". In what seems to be an appeal to older voters, he mentioned that volunteering could involve assisting local fire, police and NHS services as well as charities working to combat loneliness and support elderly, isolated individuals.

However, opposition critics have dismissed these plans as not serious, with Labour stating that the pledge would never materialise and is simply "another unfunded commitment". The Prime Minister is attempting to differentiate his party from Sir Keir Starmer's on global security, following his promise to increase defence spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product by 2030.

Intensifying his attack on Saturday, Mr Sunak claimed that voters would be "at risk" with the Labour leader in Number 10 because Britain's enemies would realise that he "doesn't have a plan". According to the Tories, teenagers who opt for a placement in the forces would "learn and take part in logistics, cyber security, procurement or civil response operations".

The Conservatives have announced plans to set up a Royal commission to develop a "bold" national service programme, drawing on expertise from both the military and civil society. The party has outlined that this commission will be responsible for creating a proposal to open the first pilot by September 2025, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Subsequently, they aim to pass a new "National Service Act" to make participation mandatory by the end of the next Parliament. The estimated cost of the programme is projected to reach £2.5 billion annually by the end of the decade, with £1 billion expected to be sourced from intensified efforts to combat tax avoidance and evasion.

The additional £1.5 billion required will be reallocated from funds previously dedicated to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), which supports charities and community groups. In support of the initiative, the Prime Minister commented: "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."

The PM warned on Saturday of a potential Labour government under Sir Keir leading to uncertainty and a "more dangerous world."

"The consequences of uncertainty are clear. No plan means a more dangerous world. You, your family and our country are all at risk if Labour win," he declared.

Sir Keir's party retorted by noting that a similar scheme the National Citizen Service had been introduced by Lord David Cameron during his tenure as prime minister. Unlike the proposal now being considered, Lord Cameron's initiative had no military aspect and instead promoted participation in activities such as outdoor education-style courses as part of his "Big Society" mission.

Responding to these developments, a Labour spokesperson argued: "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."

Liberal Democrat defence spokesperson Richard Foord MP criticised the government's approach to defence, stating: "If the Conservatives were serious about defence, they would reverse their damaging cuts to our world class professional armed forces, instead of decimating them, with swingeing cuts to the number of our regular service personnel."

"Our armed forces were once the envy of the world. This Conservative government has cut troop numbers and is planning more cuts to the size of the Army. This would be far better spent reversing Conservative cuts to troop numbers."

In a significant move ahead of the July 4 General Election, Prime Minister Mr Sunak made his first major policy announcement, despite a challenging start to his campaign. After calling the election in a rain-soaked statement outside Downing Street earlier this week, he expressed enthusiasm on the trail, saying he is "pumped up" and enjoying the campaign.

However, his tour was not without its missteps, including an awkward visit to the Titanic Quarter in Belfast, which drew unflattering comparisons to his party's prospects, and a football-related blunder at a Welsh brewery. On Saturday, Mr Sunak was back in his North Yorkshire constituency of Richmond meeting local veterans, followed by campaigning with activists in south-west London.

It is believed that he will continue his campaign trail in the south east, while Rachel Reeves is set to deliver a key speech to party members in West Yorkshire as she campaigns for Labour on Sunday. In the meantime, Sir Ed Davey is scheduled to unveil the Liberal Democrats' battlebus in a marginal constituency within the so-called Tory blue wall of southern England.