When one hears the phrase 'child soldiers' it immediately conjures up the mental image of 9 year olds dressed in outsize military fatigues and bare feet holding automatic rifles in war torn area of Africa; certainly not images of 16 year old recruits in the UK. This was my initial reaction, when, as a Member of the Defence Committee this issue was raised in our discussions.
John Glen MP was very sceptical of the use of the phrase 'child soldiers' to describe 16 year olds being recruited into the British Armed Forces and believed it over sensationalised something that probably provided stability, discipline and best of all a 'trade and training' for those young people who had had a difficult start to their lives and may well have fallen on the wrong side of the law if they hadn't had the military to turn to.
Lately he has come to question those assumptions and so have looked into it more deeply. These are his conclusions