Bishop calls for total ban on smacking

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Indy Politics

A bishop will try in the House of Lords today to outlaw parents smacking children.

A bishop will try in the House of Lords today to outlaw parents smacking children.

Kenneth Stevenson, the Bishop of Portsmouth, and a cross-party group of peers, including Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a crossbencher and former family doctor, have tabled a new clause to the Children Bill to remove the legal defence of "reasonable chastisement" which allows parents to smack their children. It would ban any form of corporal punishment.

A spokesman for the Children are Unbeatable Alliance, an umbrella group of charities, said: "The purpose of this is to give children equal protection under the law on battery and assault, while not interfering with parents' necessary rights to use reasonable force to protect and restrain their children and to punish their children in non-violent ways. The new clause does not create a new offence.''

Ministers will resist the move today but Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, has hinted that he is preparing a compromise that would remove a legal defence of smacking without imposing a total ban when the Bill reaches the Commons.

David Hinchliffe, the Labour chairman of the Commons Select Committee on Health, who has championed the case for a ban on smacking by parents, said: "We want a free vote when the Bill comes to the Commons. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child would require the Government to remove this defence in law. Ministers are also required to move because of judgments in the European Court. It is time Parliament acted to stop this happening in our society."

Campaigners for the family said parents needed to be able to continue to smack children lightly to ensure discipline. One supporter of smacking said the legislation should include spanking, with a "wooden spoon'' if necessary.