Government rejects child smacking ban

Last updated at 16:22 20 May 2004

The Government today rejected a bid to ban all smacking of children.

The current law permits smacking if only done lightly to ensure discipline.

Opponents of corporal punishment moved an amendment during detailed committee stage debate of the Children Bill in the Lords, to totally outlaw the physical punishment of children.

But after debate, the amendment was not forced to a vote.

Rejecting the proposal, junior Education Minister Baroness Ashton of Upholland said the Government would not support a complete ban on smacking, though she stressed that they remained committed to protecting children from being abused.

It was important to look at ways in which children could be supported in the context of family life, and she invited the amendment's supporters to have discussions with her along these lines.

Violence at home

Lady Ashton said existing legislation already gave children protection from violence at home.

If the amendment became law, even minor smacks administered as discipline would become illegal and technically liable to prosecution, she added.

Uncertainty would be created in the criminal justice system, and in the minds of parents and social workers, about what was legal and what was not.

Lady Ashton said the issue was "too important" for the Government to allow a free vote for its supporters, if there were a division.

It is still possible the issue could be voted on during the later stages of the Bill which has yet to go through the Commons.

The current law allowing for "reasonable chastisement" of children dates back to 1860 and means that children have less protection from being hit than adults.

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