Stephen Dixon blasts 'don't let them opt out' as fierce national service debate erupts

Anne Diamond and Stephen Dixon

Anne Diamond and Stephen Dixon on Friday's Breakfast

Alex Davies

By Alex Davies

Published: 01/09/2023

- 08:55

Updated: 01/09/2023

- 10:01

A new 'Great British National Service' proposal has been backed by MP Penny Mordaunt

Stephen Dixon and Anne Diamond welcomed Suzan Holder and Nigel Nelson onto Friday's Breakfast to go over the headlines in the day's papers.

Inevitably, the plans for a new "National Service" for 16-year-olds were high on the panel's agenda - although it's safe to say they were split on the idea.

The proposals were initially put forward by Centre-Right think tank Onward who suggested "unhappy, unskilled and unmoored" teens should take on volunteer work in order to improve their wellbeing.

Discussing the topic on Friday's Breakfast, Nelson explained: "It's not compulsory this time and you don't have to go into the army either.

"But yes, she's [Mordaunt] talking about a 'Great British National Service' and it's kind of based on the National Citizen Service -" he added to which Stephen interjected: "Which is already up and running!"

Nelson continued: "Yes... which David Cameron set up for 16 and 17-year-olds. There are so many of these things."

Nelson went on to highlight the array of volunteering options on offer for teenagers but admitted he did have reservations about the Mordaunt-backed proposal.

"The only thing I'm not quite sure about on Penny Mordaunt's idea is rather than volunteering to go and do it, she wants 16-year-olds to be automatically enrolled, forcing them to opt out if they don't want to do it," he said.

"That's the only way to do it..." Stephen argued, however, to which Anne and Holder could be heard agreeing with the GB News host as Nelson asked: "Well, why that sort of compulsion?"

Dixon replied: "Because otherwise, it won't happen.

"It's like the David Cameron scheme, hardly anyone signed up for it," Stephen added as Anne agreed: "I wouldn't even know it was still going on!"

Nelson argued "a lot of kids are actually doing" the scheme set up by the former PM before he reiterated: "My point is if you want to volunteer, the whole essence of volunteering is that you do it willingly."

Stephen continued to oppose Nelson's point of view, however, as he claimed: "Yes but they call it volunteering, the point is they don't really want it to be a volunteering scheme.

"They want it to be national service," Stephen suggested, which led to Holder weighing in to claim that the notion of being able to opt-out makes the proposal more appealing.

"I do think it would make people far more aware," she said. "And therefore if they've got nothing better to do they'll stick with it."

Anne then weighed in: "Or if you want to opt-out, you have to prove you're doing something else."

Nelson took issue with Anne and Holder's suggestions, however, as he interjected: "But that's compulsion-"

Stephen Dixon

Stephen Dixon and Anne Diamond spoke to Nigel Nelson and Suzan Holder


"Yes!" Anne interrupted. "It's compulsory volunteering and that's what we should have!"

"But that's not volunteering," Nelson protested but Holder was unwavering with her stance as she said anything that gets teenagers out and about and engaging with their community "is not a bad thing".

"It's three against one, Nigel," Stephen quipped as Nelson frantically hit back: "I cannot get my head around the idea that a volunteer is compelled to go and do it."

Stephen pointed out, however: "But it's the idea - they call it a volunteering scheme just to make it sound better, they don't want it to be a volunteering scheme -"

Nelson interrupted once more to say it "shouldn't be compulsory" but he was soon outnumbered by Anne who said it "should be" and Stephen who reeled off his thoughts.

"It should be," Stephen echoed Anne. "I wouldn't even - if it was down to me, see I wouldn't even have an opt-out.

"I'd just say you have to do it unless there's a medical reason or whatever for why you can't do it, you have to do it."

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