Conscription has been ruled out by Downing Street after a warning was issued that Britons may have to fight Russia in a potential war.
In his address to the International Armoured Vehicles conference in Twickenham on Wednesday, head of the army General Sir Patrick Sanders said the UK needed a military that could not only grow quickly but also “train and equip” a citizen army.
Sanders emphasised that the Army, which is predicted to have just 72,500 fully trained soldiers by 2025, would not be big enough to fight an all-out war with Russia even if it numbered 120,000.
Now, an official spokesman for the Prime Minister said “there is no plan” for conscription.
Rishi Sunak has ruled out conscription
A No10 spokesman said: “The British military has a proud position of being a voluntary force. As I say, there’s no plan for conscription.
“I think these kinds of hypothetical scenarios, talking about a conflict, are not helpful and I don’t think it’s right to engage with them.”
He added that the Government had invested “significant sums into our Armed Forces”.
However, a senior Whitehall source told The Telegraph “a wider conversation” needed to be had within the Government about operating in a more dangerous world.
The army is predicted to have just 72,500 fully trained soldiers by 2025
Sanders said there was an important role for civilians to play in wartime, pointing at the role that Ukrainians have played in the conflict.
He said: “Ukraine brutally illustrates that regular armies start wars, citizen armies win them. We need an army designed to expand rapidly to enable the first echelon, resource the second echelon, and train and equip the citizen army that must follow.
“Within the next three years, it must be credible to talk of a British Army of 120,000, folding in our reserve and strategic reserve. But that’s not enough.”
It comes as commander of the Estonian defence forces Martin Herem said Nato has underestimated Russia’s capacity to produce ammunition and recruit troops, saying that Vladimir Putin’s military could produce several million artillery shells a year.
Lieutenant General Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces Martin Herem said Russia could recruit hundreds of thousands of new troops.
Former head of the army General Lord Dannatt said: “If push comes to shove, as a population, we will all have to get involved and harness the manpower of the nation.
“If international circumstances deteriorate where this country finds itself at war, fighting with an army of 75,000 soldiers will not be sustainable.
“Regular armies fight the opening rounds and the citizen army come in later and put on uniform; we saw it in the First and Second World Wars.
“That’s the reality, and it’s realistic to have these conversations. I certainly don’t criticise the Chief of the General Staff for doing so.”