National service plan is desperate - Lib Dem MP

Liberal Democrat MP Helen Morgan on the Politics Midlands sofa
Helen Morgan compared the plans to a moment from Alan Partridge [BBC]

A Liberal Democrat MP has called the Conservatives' plans to introduce 12 months of mandatory national service a "desperate campaign announcement."

Under the plans 18-year-olds would have to apply for one of 30,000 full-time military placements, or volunteer one weekend a month carrying out community service.

Speaking on BBC Politics Midlands, North Shropshire MP Helen Morgan compared the plans, expected to cost about £2.5bn, to "Alan Partridge shouting 'monkey tennis.'"

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he believed it would help foster the "national spirit" that emerged during the pandemic.

Ms Morgan said: "What's wrong in places like North Shropshire, is that we don’t have enough young people to work in those skilled jobs that we already have, and dragging them away to do national service will make the economy much worse.

"We want to see people trained in apprenticeships to do the jobs that we need filling."

Preet Gill, Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, said: "Young people need hopes, they need jobs, they need training, they need opportunities."

Ellie Chowns, Herefordshire Greens group leader, described it as an "election gimmick."

"Fundamentally, young people need real hope, real opportunity, and that proposal isn’t going to give it," she said.

Defending the plans, Conservative MP for Dudley South Mike Wood said: "This doesn’t stop them going to university or getting a job.

"If they choose to go for the voluntary community route, it’s one weekend a month, and it's gaining really valuable skills."

"Those who choose to apply for either the armed forces or for cyber-security routes, those will be full-time."

"The Royal Commission will be looking at the details of how this will be introduced, so this can be introduced on a non-party political basis to make sure it’s effective."

When asked the punishment if young people did not want to do the service, he said: "The punishment would be missing out on some amazing opportunities."

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