Top Tory fails to rule out fining mother and father if youngsters do not do National Service

A Tory minister has refused to rule out fining parents if their adult children don’t take part in Rishi Sunak’s heavily-criticised National Service plan.

In the latest shambolic twist Foreign Office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the scheme would be compulsory in the same way staying in education or training until 18 is. But when asked if mums and dads could be penalised if their kids fail to turn up, she did not say no.

Ms Trevelyan told Times Radio: “I’m not going to write the detailed policy now. That’s what a royal commission programme of works will be for.” The PM has announced that all 18-year-olds will be forced to take part in his proposed new programme. Young people would be given a choice between a full-time placement in the armed forces for 12 months or spending one weekend a month for a year “volunteering,” in their community.

But senior military figures and experts voiced doubts about Mr Sunak’s idea. Admiral Adam West, former chief of the naval staff, branded the plan “bonkers”, telling The Guardian: “I’m delighted if more young people become aware of defence and are involved … but this idea is basically bonkers. “We need to spend more on defence, and – by doing what he’s suggesting – money will be sucked out of defence.”

Meanwhile Richard Dannatt, former chief of the general staff, dismissed it as “electoral opportunism”. He said: “The costs of this would be considerable in terms of trainers and infrastructure. This task cannot just be imposed on the armed forces as an extra thing to do.”

There are questions over how it will be enforced. The Mirror has seen an internal Tory briefing paper on the policy that does not rule out arresting youngsters if they fail to take part.

In a Q&A section of the document, it asks: “Will you arrest people who don’t comply?” The response is: “It is right that those who contribute to our system are duly rewarded, and those who refuse receive none of the benefits. The Royal Commission will explore an appropriate incentives regime.”

Ministers quickly backtracked as the policy descended into shambles on Sunday. Home Secretary James Cleverly insisted 18-year-olds would not be sent to jail if they refused. Asked on Sky News whether the consequences of resisting the compulsory scheme could involve a prison term, he said: “No, there’s going to be no criminal sanction. There’s no one going to jail over this.”

A Labour spokesman said: “This is not a plan – it’s a review which could cost billions and is only needed because the Tories hollowed out the armed forces to their smallest size since Napoleon.”

The Prime Minister said: “This is a great country but generations of young people have not had the opportunities or experience they deserve and there are forces trying to divide our society in this increasingly uncertain world. I have a clear plan to address this and secure our future. I will bring in a new model of national service to create a shared sense of purpose among our young people and a renewed sense of pride in our country.

“This new, mandatory national service will provide life-changing opportunities for our young people, offering them the chance to learn real world skills, do new things and contribute to their community and our country.”