Just Three Days Ago A Tory Defence Minister Slammed The Idea Of National Service

Rishi Sunak leaves after a Conservative general election campaign event in Stanmore (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak leaves after a Conservative general election campaign event in Stanmore (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe - WPA Pool/Getty Images) WPA Pool via Getty Images

A Tory defence minister slammed the idea of reintroducing national service just three days before Rishi Sunak announced it as one of his key general election pledges.

The prime minister announced on Sunday if he wins the election he will introduce the “mandatory” new scheme.

Under the policy, every 18-year-old would have to either join the military or spend one weekend a month carrying out a community service.

But on Thursday, defence minister Andrew Murrison said there were “no plans” to do so as it would “damage morale” in the armed forces.

In a written parliamentary answer, he said: “The government has no current plans to reintroduce National Service.

“Since 1963, when the last national servicemen were discharged, it has been the policy of successive Governments that the best way of providing for the defence of our country is by maintaining professional Armed Forces staffed by volunteers.

“The demanding, increasingly technical, nature of defence today is such that we require highly trained, professional men and women in our Regular and Reserve Armed Forces, fully committed to giving their best in defending our country and its allies.

“If potentially unwilling National Service recruits were to be obliged to serve alongside the professional men and women of our Armed Forces, it could damage morale, recruitment and retention and would consume professional military and naval resources.

“If, on the other hand, National Service recruits were kept in separate units, it would be difficult to find a proper and meaningful role for them, potentially harming motivation and discipline.

Murrison added: “For all these reasons, there are no current plans for the restoration of any form of National Service.”

Labour has ridiculed the idea as nothing more than a “headline-grabbing gimmick”.

And James Cleverly conceded this morning that despite being “mandatory” there would be “no criminal sanctions” for people who refused.

Nobody’s going to jail over this,” the home. secretary told Sky News.

The Tories have said their national service programme will cost £2.5 billion a year by 2029/2030.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “This is another desperate £2.5 billion unfunded commitment from a Tory Party which already crashed the economy, sending mortgages rocketing, and now they’re spoiling for more.

“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.”