Government rejects Bishop's bid to ban smacking

Government rejects Bishop's bid to ban smacking

By staff writers
20 May 2004

Government rejects Bishop's bid to ban smacking

-20/5/04

The Government has rejected a bid to ban the smacking of 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, tabled a new clause to the Children Bill during its committee stage to remove the legal defence of "reasonable chastisement" which allows parents to hit their children.

It would have banned any form of corporal punishment.

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 amendmentís supporters to have discussions with her along these lines.

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 uncertainty 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 ìtoo importantî for the Government to allow a free vote for its supporters, if there were a division.

Last year moves to stop parents smacking their children received the backing from MPs on two influential committees.

In 2002 a case proposed in the Court of Appeal that corporal punishment was a "biblical doctrine". Forty schools, spearheaded by the Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, wanted to change in the law to allow them to use corporal punishment. The suggestion that smacking was a biblical doctrine was however publicly challenged by the theological think-tank ekklesia.

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

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

The Government has rejected a bid to ban the smacking of 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, tabled a new clause to the Children Bill during its committee stage to remove the legal defence of "reasonable chastisement" which allows parents to hit their children.

It would have banned any form of corporal punishment.

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 amendmentís supporters to have discussions with her along these lines.

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 uncertainty 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 ìtoo importantî for the Government to allow a free vote for its supporters, if there were a division.

Last year moves to stop parents smacking their children received the backing from MPs on two influential committees.

In 2002 a case proposed in the Court of Appeal that corporal punishment was a "biblical doctrine". Forty schools, spearheaded by the Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, wanted to change in the law to allow them to use corporal punishment. The suggestion that smacking was a biblical doctrine was however publicly challenged by the theological think-tank ekklesia.

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

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

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