§ Mr. Ingram
The declaration made on signing the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict was designed to clarify the United Kingdom's understanding of the requirements of the Optional 9W Protocol. It made clear our determination to accord special consideration to members of the armed forces under the age of 18, but also our understanding that the Protocol would not exclude members of our armed forces aged under 18 from taking a direct part in hostilities in certain narrowly defined circumstances (thereby maintaining operational effectiveness). The declaration defined these circumstances as beingwhere there is a genuine military need to deploy a unit or ship or unit to an area in which hostilities are taking place; and by reason of the nature and urgency of the situation:it is not practicable to withdraw such persons (ie those under 18) before deployment, orto do so would undermine the operational effectiveness of their ship or unit, and thereby put at risk the successful completion of the military mission and/or the safety of other personnel.There are no plans to withdraw the declaration.
New guidelines are being finalised as part of the process leading to the United Kingdom's ratification of the Optional Protocol. These guidelines are designed to ensure adherence to the Optional Protocol while reflecting the practical position set out in the United Kingdom's declaration, thus maintaining operational effectiveness. Officials in both the Ministry of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Office continue to work actively towards ratification, and we hope to ratify soon. As part of the ratification process, an Explanatory Memorandum will be laid before Parliament to explain the significance of the Optional Protocol.