Britain must create a 21st century National Service Lord Hague says after top general sparked conscription fears

30 January 2024, 11:16

William Hague has argued for a 21st century National Service
William Hague has argued for a 21st century National Service. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

Britain needs to create a Scandinavian-style National Service Lord William Hague warns amid growing fears that the UK is not prepared in the event of all-out war.

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Lord Hague argues that the UK needs to reassert the idea that citizenship "is not a travel document" but comes with other obligations to one's country.

Writing in The Times the former foreign secretary said: "The blunt truth is that the chances of getting through the next couple of decades without a dangerous world crisis are small."

William Hague speaking in the House of Lords
William Hague speaking in the House of Lords. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Conscription in the UK: How it could work if people are called up for military service to fight in the army

Read More: All Brits must brace for conscription ‘within six years’ unless Putin is defeated, expert warns

The former Conservative leader said that while old ideas around national service are "not seen as compatible for our hyper-individualistic age", Britain could emulate Norway's National Service scheme.

In Norway every 18-year-old fills in a questionnaire and can then be selected for interview. Those who are selected - around 17 per cent of the age group - serve for a year or more.

It comes after Defence Secretary Grant Shapps warned that the world was "moving from a post-war to pre-war world" and a top general sparked conscription fears as he called for the creation of a "citizen army".

Conscription was introduced during the First World War under the Military Service Act of 1916.It was reinstated under the National Service (Armed Forces) Act during the Second World War, requiring all fighting-age men between 18 and 41 to sign up.

A new National Service Act was passed after the war ended which required men aged 17 to 21 to serve in the armed forces for 18 months and to remain on the reserve list for several years.

The last servicemen enlisted through National Service were demobilised in 1963.

Soldiers from the Royal Artillery strain to pull a 105mm Light Artillery Gun
Soldiers from the Royal Artillery strain to pull a 105mm Light Artillery Gun. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Brits aged up to 60 face conscription, former top military general warns, as Whitehall draws up plans for 'volunteer army'

Read More: Gen Z will not accept conscription as the price of previous generations’ failures

Fears grew last week of a return to conscription after General Sir Patrick Sanders, Chief of the General Staff, stressed the need for ministers to 'mobilise the nation' in the event of a wider conflict against Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine.

General Sanders - who has been openly critical of military shortages - said boosting numbers in preparation for a potential conflict would need to be a 'whole-of-nation undertaking".

Downing Street has insisted there were no plans for conscription.

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