Teenagers ‘will only serve 25 days in military under national service plan’

Teenagers who complete military service under the Tories’ proposed national service scheme will only serve in the armed forces for 25 days, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has said.

The plan would make national service compulsory for 18-year-olds, with them being given a choice between military service or one weekend a month volunteering locally.

In their manifesto unveiled on Tuesday, the military option is described as “a year-long full-time placement in the armed forces or cyber defence”.

Announcing the policy in May, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “We will introduce a bold new model of national service for 18-year-olds, to be spent either in a competitive, full-time military commission over 12 months, or with one weekend per month volunteering in the community.”

Rishi Sunak visit to Poland and Germany
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps (Henry Nicholls/PA)

Asked if there was accommodation or training resources to facilitate 30,000 new members of the armed forces each year, Mr Shapps told Good Morning Britain: “From a defence secretary’s point of view, the very concept of being able to introduce 30,000 people for experience, they’re not going to be – this is 25 days in a year thing.”

He added: “The reason why this is, I think, so important is it is a commitment to do exactly that, to build the accommodation, to find the space to ensure that we can do it.

“It’s not as you present it, 30,000 people for over an entire year. It’s 25 days a year for those 30,000 – and I think those places will be massively sought after.

“And if we don’t think that we can ever expand our footprint, in other words attract more people into the armed services, then that would really be a problem.

“Instead, what we’ve done is come up with a plan with how we’ll fund it as well. We’ve actually described the funding for this as well.

“And I think it’s, from a defence secretary’s point of view, it’s a wonderful idea to introduce more people to serving the country, so of course it solves problems for me.”

General Election campaign 2024
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps listens to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak launching the Conservative Party General Election manifesto (James MAnning/PA)

Labour frontbencher Jonathan Ashworth, said Mr Shapps had “completely blown up” the Prime Minster’s flagship manifesto commitment.

He said: “This is what happens when you have a Conservative Party making up policy as it goes along, and working out how much their pledges will cost the taxpayer after they’ve already been announced.

“It is a symbol of the utter desperation at the heart of this Conservative campaign, and the chaos at the heart of their government.”

He added: “When the Tories can’t even decide between themselves from one day to the next what their flagship policy is supposed to deliver, it is clear that all Rishi Sunak offers is five more years of chaos, a scattergun of unfunded pledges, and the £4,800 more on family mortgages that will result.”