Blair rejects pleas to ban smacking

Tony Blair has rejected calls from MPs who want the smacking of children banned.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We continue to believe this is a matter of individual choice for parents.

"The Government believes that most parents accept and understand that there is a clear and fundamental difference between discipline and abuse and know where the line lies between them."

The spokesman added: "We do not believe that criminalising parents is the right way to go about this. We do believe that parents have a common sense understanding in this area."

MPs and peers had released two reports calling for the "reasonable chastisement" defence that is often relied upon by abusers in court to be scrapped.

It enables parents and carers to argue that smacking is a viable means of disciplining children.

The Health Committee, which examined the institutional failures, which led to the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie, found that the "reasonable chastisement" defence could escalate into abuse.

The Health Committee found that punishment and discipline deemed as "reasonable chastisement" could escalate into abuse. Also, The Human Rights Committee warned the defence, in section 1(7) of the Children and Persons Act 1933, is incompatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

David Hinchliffe, chair of the Health Committee and a former social worker, said: "I have seen children suffer as a consequence of this gap in the law. We need to accord children the same rights that we do adults. I cannot assault you as an adult and you cannot assault me - it is about time we did the same for children."

Approximately 80 children in England die from abuse each year - a figure that has not changed for 30 years. Their deaths have led to 70 public inquiries since 1948. Sweden, where the "medieval corporal punishment" of children was banned in 1979, has not recorded any similar child deaths in the last decade, Mr Hinchliffe said.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now