National Citizen Service?

Rory Stewart has suggested the idea

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Why has Rory Stewart suggested national service?

By Joe Harker

National service is a compulsory period where a person, most often young, is conscripted by the state to perform duties.

This is most often represented as spending time in the military, though not always.

Tory leadership hopeful Rory Stewart has suggested introducing the policy back to the UK.

The Claim:

Stewart is not proposing a military form of national service, instead arguing for a "national citizen service" where all 16 year olds would spend a month "learning skills" and "giving back to the community".

The MP argues that this month of service would help instill a sense of national pride in new generations while better equipping them for an adult life.

He also suggested it could bring people together and build communities on the back of the work done by younger generations.

Many areas in the UK are in dire need for skills and volunteering, David Cameron's "big society" didn't really take off and communities are divided for a multitude of reasons.

Old and young, rich and poor, a scheme where people have to come together and work could build bridges between different groups.

The Counter Claim:

However, an idea such as national service always causes opposition and division. Simply put, people don't like being forced to do something by the state.

Whether military or civil, the idea of national service provokes a sharp rejection among those who would have to actually perform the service while those who are old enough to avoid it tend to feel more positive about the idea.

Those who have to do it don't want to, while those who don't actually have to only see the benefits.

Some critics of the idea pointed out that the Conservatives, the party of small government, would have to implement a huge bureaucracy to track and find work for every young person in the UK.

Others questioned why it had to be compulsory when things like the Duke of Edinburgh award were optional, thus allowing young people the freedom of choice.

The Facts:

Stewart is the most popular candidate for Tory leadership among the public, though the UK has a population of 66 million and only 124,000 people who are members of the Conservative party actually get to pick.

If he did beat the odds and end up as prime minister he would have the opportunity to put his proposals before parliament, though it is likely that the other parties would oppose the policy to curry favour with younger people who are not too far away from reaching voting age.

The National Citizen Service already exists in the UK but it is optional for people to sign up to. It helps 15-17 year olds volunteer and contribute, but there is nothing compulsory about it.

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