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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 October 2007, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Gove hails 'citizen service' plan
Michael Gove
Mr Gove said the scheme would help "rebind" society
A voluntary citizen service for 16-year-olds would help "recapture what national service did" in the 1950s, the shadow children's secretary has said.

Michael Gove said those who volunteered would take part in community service, spend two weeks on a residential course and complete a testing challenge.

He told the Tory conference it would take teenagers "outside their comfort zone" and help "rebind our society".

The proposals are aimed at both school leavers and those continuing studies.

'Break down barriers'

They were first announced in September by party leader David Cameron, who said he had initially favoured a compulsory scheme, but had been persuaded against it by volunteer groups.

But he said his ambition was for all Britain's 650,000 16-year-olds to take part.

Mr Gove said participants would be eligible for a cash sum on completion - half of which would go to a charity of their choice and half to the organisation running the project.

He told the conference, in Blackpool, that the scheme would recapture what national service had done in the 1950s and would help mend what he called Britain's "broken society".

"Britain has changed hugely since the 1950s," he said.

"We are a much more liberal society, a much more mixed society, so there is an even greater need to break down barriers and boundaries to rebind our society as one nation - a truly united kingdom."

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