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Armed Forces Recruitment (Young People)

Volume 520: debated on Monday 13 December 2010

7. If he will take steps to implement the recommendations of parliamentary Committees in the last Parliament and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to end the recruitment of under-18s into the armed forces. (29883)

The United Kingdom ratified the optional protocol on children in armed conflict in June 2003. The minimum age at which individuals may join the armed forces remains at 16 years, which broadly reflects the minimum statutory school leaving age. There are no plans to change this.

Some 28% of recruits into the armed forces were aged under 18 in 2008-09. Recruitment to the armed forces carries significant emotional and physical risks to well-being for young people. What steps are the Government taking to mitigate those risks?

I recently took a passing-out parade at Bassingbourn, and I was struck by how happy all the young recruits under training appeared to be. We take our duty of care very seriously. It is a tough environment, but the recruits are well looked after, and most of the young people I met were desperate to join their units. We do not allow people under 18 to go to operational theatre as a matter of policy.