Steve Baker MP claims Rishi Sunak’s plan to introduce national service to get young people ‘out of their bubbles’ was ‘sprung on’ government officials.

The Prime Minister announced his “bold” plan to bring back a form of compulsory national service on Sunday, May 26.

He said the policy, which would see 18-year-olds forced either to sign up to the military or cyber defence force or undertake community volunteering work, would make society “more cohesive” and strengthen the UK’s defence.

However, MP for Wycombe Steve Baker, who is also minister of state for Northern Ireland, criticised the plans on X (formerly Twitter) yesterday (May 27), alleging that they had been “sprung on” Tory candidates.

He suggested if it had been a government policy rather than a Conservative proposal, he would have had a say because of the particular sensitivities around military service in Northern Ireland.

Instead, the introduction of national service was “developed by a political adviser or advisers and sprung on candidates, some of whom are relevant ministers”.

In a sign of wider unease at the policy, he added: “History has proven time and time again that liberty under law – not compulsion and planning – is the surest road to peace and prosperity.”

Under the Tory plan, due to be fully in place by 2029-30 if Mr Sunak wins the election, all 18-year-olds will be legally required to take up either a 12-month placement in the armed forces or cyber defence or give up the equivalent of one weekend a month to volunteer in their communities.

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Around 30,000 full-time military placements will be on offer, with the vast majority of 18-year-olds expected to do the compulsory community roles instead, working with organisations such as charities, the NHS, police or fire services.

Home Secretary James Cleverly told the BBC that the plans would engage young people who are "living in their own bubble" and "address the fragmentation" in modern society.

Speaking on a campaign visit to Chesham this week, Mr Sunak said: “This modern form of national service will mean that young people get the skills and the opportunities that they need which is going to serve them very well in life.

“It’s going to foster a culture of service which is going to be incredibly powerful for making our society more cohesive and in a more uncertain and dangerous world it’s going to strengthen our country’s security and resilience.

“For all these reasons I think this is absolutely the right thing to do. Yes, it is bold, but that’s the kind of leadership I offer.”

Labour has also criticised the national service plan, with Sir Keir Starmer calling it a “teenage Dad’s Army”.

Shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth said: “Tory MPs are arguing among themselves about whether they are going to arrest parents, whether it will apply to Northern Ireland and how much it will cost. It is a shambles, total chaos, and the country deserves so much better.”