Should there be compulsory national service for 18-26 year olds in the UK?

A debate over whether 18-26 year olds should be forced to do national service will be held in Parliament in February. The bill is being sponsored by Kettering’s Conservative MP Philip Hollobone who is convinced that some form of service for youngsters, be it charitable work, care for the elderly, work linked to the NHS or participation in the armed forces, would help instil a greater sense of ‘self-respect, personal reliance, discipline and behaviour’ into society. Those with severe mental or physical disabilities will be exempt from partaking in national service. However, surely this promotes the question of what is actually considered a severe mental or physical disability? Would depression count as a severe mental illness considering that over 1 in 100 people at one stage have suffered from it?

As a student at Tiffin, I believe that it would be very detrimental to society if this bill were to be passed. The vast majority of my peers have a good idea of what career path they want to pursue. Therefore, inflicting a year of national service onto them would mean their careers would be delayed by a year. In addition to this, who would be responsible for paying for national service? Would it be the young people who are being forced to undertake it or would it be the government? It would be very unfair on a young person to pay for their own national service considering that many of them would be totally against the idea of doing it. Moreover, they would be put into debt and therefore a much more difficult financial position. In addition to this Philip Hollobone believes that the skills picked up by young people partaking in national service will increase their prospects of getting a job. However, if every young person were to be forced to undertake national service, then surely it would then become worthless on a CV because everyone would have that skill set.

Although some people may say that the values of self-respect, personal reliance and self-discipline will be promoted in society through national service, are these not the exact values that are supposed to be taught at home and enhanced through the British education system? There is only a very small minority of society that lack these values and who commit crime, however the introduction of national service would mean the entire population in the UK aged 18-26 would be forced to suffer for the mistakes of only a few. If a bill similar to this were to be proposed, would it not be more sensible to force the unemployed into national service so that they could benefit society rather than waste government money through benefits? Furthermore, forcing the unemployed into work would support the British economy because it would decrease unemployment.

In conclusion, I think that it is evident that compulsory national service for young people aged 18-26 would be a bad idea because it would hinder the careers of many young people who would have to undertake national service, as opposed to being able to pursue the careers that they have studied for. Others may say that it would promote the values of self-respect, personal reliance and self-discipline but nearly all of young people in the UK already have learnt these values by this age. This call for national service is largely in response to the growing unemployment problem in the young population and the increase in disaffected youth who seem to view benefit entitlement as a rite. However, in fact out of the 2.7 million unemployed, these people are in the minority. Many within this age range have gone to university and are desperately seeking employment, despite already having the skills they would gain by undertaking national service. I believe that the government needs to focus on addressing the lack of graduate jobs available, rather than try to improve employment statistics by introducing unnecessary and unwanted national service.

Contributed by Gregory Lobo

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