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Mandatory National Service for 18-Year-Olds in UK, Sunak Vows

26 May 2024 21:18

Islam Times - Eighteen-year-olds would be forced to carry out a form of national service if the Tories are voted back in at the July 4 election, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced, reported German news agency (dpa).

The prime minister said Britain has “generations of young people who have not had the opportunities they deserve” as he claimed the radical measure would help unite society in an “increasingly uncertain world”.

In future, 18-year-olds would be given a choice 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, the Tories said.

In an apparent pitch to older voters, the party said this could include helping National Health Service, local fire and police services, as well as charities tackling loneliness and supporting elderly, isolated people.

Sunak is seeking to draw a dividing line with Labor on global security following his pledge to raise defense spending to 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product by 2030.

Heightening his attack on Saturday, Sunak said voters would be left “at risk” with Keir Starmer in No. 10 because Britain’s enemies would notice that he “doesn’t have a plan”.

Teenagers who choose to sign up for a placement in the forces would “learn and take part in logistics, cybersecurity, procurement or civil response operations”, the Tories said.

The Conservatives said they would establish a royal commission bringing in expertise from across the military and civil society to design what they described as the “bold” national service programme.

The party said it would work towards the first pilot being open for applications in September 2025, after which it would seek to introduce a new “National Service Act” to make the measures compulsory by the end of the next Parliament.

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.”

Earlier on Saturday, Sunak suggested a government led by Starmer would be marked by 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 Labor win, “he said.

Starmer’s party branded the announcement “another desperate unfunded commitment” and pointed out that David Cameron introduced a similar scheme – the National Citizen Service – when he was prime minister.

Cameron’s announcement had no armed forces 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 Labor spokesperson 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 Labor.”

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