§ 19. Mr. McGrady
To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what further steps have been taken to ratify the optional protocol to the convention on the rights of children on the involvement of children in armed conflict; and if she will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Ingram
I have been asked to reply.
The Ministry of Defence has been preparing detailed administrative procedures and guidelines for the UK armed forces which will give concrete form to the commitment, and accompanying declaration, we made on signing the optional protocol to ensure that all feasible measures are taken to avoid the direct participation in hostilities by any of our serving personnel who are under the age of 18. This process is in its final stages and we hope to proceed to ratification soon. Details of the means of implementing the protocol will be covered in an explanatory memorandum to be laid before Parliament in the lead up to ratification. Meanwhile great care continues to be taken in selecting the types of duty on which personnel under the age of 18 may be employed, and I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 28 January 2002, Official Report, column 14W to the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green).