The government move to grant the right of discharge to under eighteen year old recruits to the armed forces is being warmly welcomed by Quakers, who have long campaigned for the rights of young recruits.
“We warmly welcome the commitment of the Ministry of Defence to granting a right of discharge to under eighteens in the armed forces,” said Michael Bartlet, parliamentary liaison secretary for Quakers in Britain. “This is a practical policy that Quakers, compelled by our commitment to equality and peace, have been pressing for in the context of the current Armed Forces Bill. It represents a significant step towards implementing the spirit of the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.”
The Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill on Thursday received a formal response to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill Special Report, HC 779. The minister for defence personnel, welfare and veterans, Andrew Robathan MP wrote: “Following a review of discharge policy I am pleased to announce that, for those under the age of eighteen, the ability to be discharged will in future be a right up to the age of eighteen, subject to an appropriate period of consideration or cooling off. My officials are currently finalising the policy details and these will be brought forward shortly in secondary legislation.”
Quakers have long campaigned for an end to the use of child soldiers, both globally and in Britain. There are currently 580 sixteen year olds and 1,970 seventeen year olds serving in the armed forces. (MOD figures)
Quakers raised concerns about under eighteens in the armed forces in a submission to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill.