Children and young people's rights groups are calling for a change in the law to end the recruitment of 16 and 17-year-olds into the UK armed forces. Their call comes ahead of the second reading of the Armed Forces Bill, which the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, will present to the House of Commons tomorrow (10 January). More from the Ekklesia think tank:

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, together with War Child, UNICEF UK, the Children’s Society, and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England today insisted that the Bill be amended to end the “outdated practice” of recruiting soldiers aged under 18.

Amnesty International UK and the United Nations Association have given their backing to the call.

So far, Liam Fox and the Ministry of Defence are resisting the pressure to raise the age of recruitment to 18, but some question how long they can keep to this position.

The UK is one of a diminishing number of countries that still recruit under-18s into the armed forces, and one of fewer than 20 countries which recruit from the age of 16. Other countries recruiting from this age include Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe.

No other country in the European Union recruits 16-year-olds. Neither do the other members of NATO or the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

134 countries have gone further and legally prohibited the recruitment of any individual under the age of 18. /...

BAFF comment: The UK Government policy on this has changed over the years. 16 and 17 year-olds are recruited, but personnel under the age of 18 are not normally deployed on operations. Another issue is the right of those who joined at 16 or 17 to change their mind after completing their training. UPDATE Feb 2011: This issue has now been raised in BAFF's written evidence to the Armed Forces Bill Committee.