Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis ‘would not be exempt from National Service’

The Wales children would be eligible for the Tory scheme when they turn 18
The Wales children would be eligible for the Tory scheme when they turn 18 - Aaron Chown/PA

Young royals will have to spend a year in the military or volunteer in the community under Conservative plans to revive National Service.

Rishi Sunak made the first major policy announcement of the general election campaign on Sunday, vowing to bring back National Service for 18-year-olds.

He said this would entail either a year on a military placement or spending one weekend of each month volunteering.

More details have now emerged about the scheme, including that there will be very limited exemptions from participation.

The Conservative Party told The Telegraph that this included royal children being expected to take part.

The Prince and Princess of Wales have three children, Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 9, and Prince Louis, 6.

Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie also have young children who would be eligible to take part once they reach 18 as well as Prince Edward’s son, the Earl of Wessex, who is 16.

The Royal family has a long history of serving in the military. Prince William attended Sandhurst before spending seven-and-a-half years in full-time military service.

Prince of Wales, seen here with his children at RAF Fairford last summer, spent seven-and-a-half years in full-time military service
The Prince of Wales, seen here with his children at RAF Fairford last summer, spent seven-and-a-half years in full-time military service - Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The Tories have also revealed how they plan to encourage teenagers to apply for the military scheme, including participants being potentially favoured when applying for jobs.

One option that has been suggested is the introduction of fast-tracked routes into graduate schemes and the Civil Service for those who have taken part.

Another proposal is that employers are encouraged to consider Armed Forces recruits during the hiring process and that participants are given the opportunity to highlight their military experience on their Ucas applications for university and apprenticeships.

There will be 30,000 places on the 12-month military scheme each year, and it is hoped that it will be highly competitive.

Rishi Sunak (centre), his wife Akshata Murty (right) and Conservative MP Bob Blackman (second right), in Stanmore
Rishi Sunak (centre), his wife Akshata Murty (right) and Conservative MP Bob Blackman (second right), in Stanmore on Sunday - PA

On Sunday, Mr Sunak said: “National Service schemes in countries around the world show just how fulfilling it is for young people.

“We want to make sure Britain’s future generations can get the most out of National Service, that’s why we’re looking into ways it can open doors they wouldn’t otherwise get in work or education.

“Only the Conservatives will take the bold action required to deliver a secure future for the next generation.”

A new Royal Commission will be asked to finalise the potential incentives for the military route, drawing on similar programmes in other countries as inspiration.

The commission will also be asked to confirm any exemptions from participation, although these are expected to be extremely limited, with there also being very few opportunities to defer.

Teenagers will be required to participate regardless of whether they are at university, have a job or are on a gap year.

The Royal Commission will look at possible exemptions for those already working in the military, and in special circumstances for those with caring responsibilities. But the “starting point” is that all 18-year-olds serve.

In European nations with national service, members of the royal family are expected to take part.

In Norway, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, who is second in line to the throne, recently started her 12-month military service placement with the Engineer Battalion.

Spain’s Crown Princess Leonor is undergoing three years of military training, although the country no longer has national service.

The Tories’ proposed programme will apply across the UK, including Northern Ireland. However, the commission will consider how to manage “sensitivities” in the province.

The Conservatives hope the policy will create a clear dividing line between them and Labour as they seek to present themselves as the only party that can be trusted with the UK’s security and defence.

Crown Princess Leonor of Spain
Crown Princess Leonor of Spain receives The Medal Of The Cortes at Aljaferia Palace in Zaragoza, Spain last week - Shutterstock

But Labour has branded the scheme a “headline-grabbing gimmick”, claiming the Tories have been driven to “desperate” action because they have “hollowed out the Armed Forces to their smallest size since Napoleon”.

However, the party was forced to deny a shadow cabinet split after it emerged David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, advocated for a similar scheme in 2020.

Labour distanced itself from Mr Lammy’s comments, insisting that was “no longer his position” as a member of the frontbench.

With a recruitment crisis threatening to engulf the military, the plans will be seen as one possible way to boost troop numbers. A similar scheme in Denmark aims to increase the number of conscripts by around 300 to 5,000 per year.

On Sunday, Mr Sunak used his first video on TikTok to promote the plans to young people.

The move will have raised eyebrows in Westminster, given the video-sharing app, which is owned by a Chinese tech firm, has been banned on government phones because of the perceived risk to security. The company also faces a crackdown in the US.

TikTok has long denied that it could be used as a tool of the Chinese government.

In a short clip, the Prime Minister sought to reassure teenagers that he was “not sending everyone off to join the Army” and invited users of the social media platform to ask him questions about the policy.

The Tories have said the scheme is “mandatory”, but it is not yet clear how it will be enforced.

On Sunday, James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, was forced to deny that there will be criminal sanctions, insisting “no one’s going to jail over this”. However, he did say the Tories would “compel” people to take part.

Many countries across the world have some form of national service, including military and non-military models.

All able-bodied men in South Korea must serve in the armed forces for 18 to 21 months under a conscription system set up in response to the threat from North Korea.

In Israel, one of the examples pointed to by the Tories, military service is compulsory for the majority of men and women over 18, with men expected to serve for a minimum of 32 months and women a minimum 24 months.

In Sweden, all citizens must complete a military enlistment from the year they turn 18 and, if selected, are obliged to enrol in basic military training.

There has been renewed interest in national service in Europe amid the war in Ukraine.

In January the head of the Army warned the public may need to be called up to fight if the UK goes to war – but the Government responded by dismissing talk of conscription.

General Sir Patrick Sanders stressed the need for the Government to “mobilise the nation” in the event of war with Russia.

But Mr Sunak’s spokesman said hypothetical scenarios of a future potential conflict were not helpful and ruled out any move towards a conscription model for the Army.