‘I know how rewarding it is to contribute’: Kingston’s Conservative candidate welcomes National Service plans

By Oliver Monk

11th Jun 2024 | General Election 2024

Helen Edward, the Conservative candidate for Kingston & Surbiton, says she is in support of her party's plans to reintroduce National Service for UK teenagers. (Photo: Helen Edward)
Helen Edward, the Conservative candidate for Kingston & Surbiton, says she is in support of her party's plans to reintroduce National Service for UK teenagers. (Photo: Helen Edward)

Conservative Party candidate for Kingston & Surbiton Helen Edward has come out in favour of her party's proposed National Service scheme.

The party's plans, announced in May, would see teenagers across the country take part in mandatory service, either in the armed forces or essential services.

The 'brightest and the best' would be able to apply to one of 30,000 'selective' military placements, with others being sent to organisations like the police, fire service, or NHS for 25 days: equivalent to one weekend per month for a year.

Ms Edward said: "We have so much to [be] proud of in Britain, but one of the problems we face is that too many young people don't get the opportunities they deserve.

"That is why I welcome our new National Service model [...] so they can contribute to their country whilst gaining the valuable skills they need for a brighter future."

Ms Edward, who says she is a regular volunteer at Kingston Hospital along with a number of local charities including Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness, added: "I know how rewarding it is to contribute and make friends. 

"The training is always great and at the end of the day you go home knowing you have made a real difference to people who are less fortunate than yourself."

Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats and rival candidate to Ms Edward in Kingston & Surbiton, has called the Conservative's plan 'hare-brained'. (Photo: Lib Dems)

Other parties have expressed concerns over the plans, with Ms Edward's Lib Dem rival Ed Davey saying: "The Conservative Party has already done so much damage to people's living standards and public services in the Royal Borough of Kingston with all their chaos.

"Now they want to slash funding for local services to pay for their hare-brained plans for a National Service.

"If the Conservatives were serious about defending Britain's security, they would reverse their plans to cut the Army by 10,000 troops."

National Service was last seen in the UK in 1960. 

However the party says this new version would not force teenagers into military roles. Beyond the emergency services, other non-military placements could see other forms of community volunteering like contributing to critical local infrastructure.

While mandatory, the Conservatives have ruled out prison time for those who don't complete their National Service. In an interview with the BBC, Home Secretary James Cleverly said the government would instead use currently unspecified non-criminal sanctions.

The Conservative plan to cover the scheme's cost of £2.5 billion in part by 'cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion', which they say will raise £6 billion over five years.

The move is part of a wider plan to increase defence spending to 2.5-percent of the UK's GDP by 2030 – 0.5-percent over the NATO target, an overspend equivalent to over £13.7 billion a year.

Some are sceptical of the funding target, with recent findings from The i indicating the party has cut day-to-day defence spending 'by nearly £10 billion in real terms' since coming to power in 2010.

It remains to be seen if this policy will help the Conservatives sway Kingston's Lib Dem majority in the upcoming General Election.

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