Ministers rule out total smacking ban

Ministers have ruled out a complete ban on smacking after a review concluded existing laws provide adequate protection for children.

Children’s minister Kevin Brennan told MPs the existing child protection laws – which include a ban on any physical punishment leaving a permanent mark – appear to be working.

Parents told the government they would be opposed to a total ban, he added, although most parents claimed not to smack their children.

Mr Brennan was speaking after a review of smacking legislation, included in the 2004 Children’s Act.

In a statement to MPs, the children’s minister said: “The review found that smacking is becoming a less commonly used form of discipline as more parents recognise that there are more effective and acceptable methods of disciplining children.”

Mr Brennan said the existing laws protect children, adding police have discretion over the appropriate action to take.

“In response the government will retain the law in its current form, in the absence of evidence it is not working satisfactorily”, Mr Brennan said.

Amid a general decline in the number of parents admitting to smacking, Mr Brennan said the government would do more to help people with “positive parenting.”

Coming into effect in 2005, the Children’s Act was designed to stop abusive parents and carers claiming “reasonable punishment” as a defence.

It allowed parents to mildly rebuke their children, but barred any physical force that left visible bruising, scratches, swellings or cuts.

Children’s campaigners had argued this failed to go far enough and had been lobbying MPs for a total ban on smacking.

The shadow children’s minister Tim Loughton insisted today, however, there had been no public appetite for tougher laws.

The Conservatives hailed today’s decision as a “victory for common sense”.

Mr Loughton said: “Clearly, if any adult is responsible for abuse and violence towards a child they need to face the full rigour of the law.

“But there is a world of difference between that and criminalising loving parents that use chastisement as they see fit in the interests of their child.”

He added there “never was any public appetite for re-opening this can of worms just three years after the issue was debated in parliament.”