Mayor of London Boris Johnson has backed the right of parents to smack their children, bolstering comments last week from a senior Labour MP.
Listen to Boris Johnson speak about the issue on BBC Radio 5 Live
Mr Johnson told BBC Radio 5 Live that he believed the current law was “confusing” and warned that parents were “anxious” about disciplining their children.
The law on smacking in England and Wales allows parents to smack their children but legislation in 2004 restricted the defence of “reasonable chastisement”.
Mr Johnson noted: “People do feel anxious about imposing discipline on their children, whether the law will support them”.
He said he thinks “there ought to be some confirmation that the benefit of the doubt will always be given to parents in these matters and they should be seen as the natural figures of authority in this respect”.
The Mayor added: “Obviously you don’t want to have a licence for physical abuse or for violence and that’s very important.”
His comments follow those of Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy who last week described the situation in his own inner-city constituency.
He explained that parents had told him about “the real pressures of raising children for example on the 15th floor of a tower block with knives, gangs and the dangers of violent crime just outside the window”.
He remarked “they say they no longer feel sovereign in their own homes and the ability to exercise their own judgement in relation to discipline and reasonable chastisement has been taken away from them”.
And Mr Lammy, who has written a book commenting on last year’s English summer riots, said “in that context in the book I do say that we should return to the law as it existed for 150 years before it was changed in 2004″.
Mr Lammy’s stance on smacking was supported by Cristina Odone, a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, who said parents were worried about social services taking their children away.
She said he “has a point: parents, in particular working-class parents, feel that they have no authority over their children”.
Under the Children Act 2004 any smack that leaves more than a temporary mark may be illegal.