The UK’s armed forces minister has dispelled talk of introducing conscription to the Army if Nato goes to war with Russia.
Frontbencher James Heappey said the UK “long had plans” for “mobilising volunteers” in the event that Britain does enter a new conflict, but stressed that “nobody is thinking” about bringing back conscription.
It comes after comments made by General Sir Patrick Sanders, the outgoing Chief of the General Staff (CGS), who said the country should “train and equip” a “citizen army”.
In a speech on Wednesday, the military top brass said increasing Army numbers in preparation for a potential conflict would need to be a national undertaking.
He pointed to Sweden introducing a form of military service for its population, and added said at least 45,000 British reservists and citizens should be trained up in the next three years to top-up the current army size of 74,000.
No 10 ruled out any suggestion that conscription was under consideration, saying there were “no plans” to change the British military’s “proud tradition of being a voluntary force”.
Mr Heappey backed up that sentiment on Thursday, tweeting: “There are three issues being conflated into one in response to the CGS’s speech on Wednesday.
“Firstly, conscription. Nobody has ever mentioned it, nobody is even thinking about it. CGS didn’t say it. It is all nonsense.”
Models of conscription existed for two periods in the UK – during and after the First and Second World Wars – but compulsory military service has not been in force since 1960.
But in aftermath of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Western attention has turned to the readiness of Nato forces to defend its borders against any extension of Kremlin aggression.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, who has previously backed defence spending rising to 3% of gross domestic product – a measure of the size of the economy – last week said it was currently below the target of 2.5%.
The Conservative defence minister said Sir Patrick had raised a “separate but equally necessary debate” about how the first wave of defenders can be bolstered in the event of a war.
“We have long had plans for remobilising service leavers and mobilising volunteers,” he continued.
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