The Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has said that parents who smack their children should not be criminalised.
Speaking on a Sky News debate, Morgan said that “reasonable chastisement”, such as “a tap on the hand or a mild smack on the bottom” is acceptable.
In England and Wales, the law allows parents to smack their children under the defence of “reasonable chastisement” – but it must not leave a mark.
Morgan, a mother of one, commented: “We hear some people talk about the nanny state and, actually, we don’t want to be telling people how to bring up their children, or how to be parents.”
The Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said he thinks “parents shouldn’t smack children”, but does not believe that the law should be changed to make it illegal.
He said that “somebody who smacks and marks and hurts a child” should be punished.
Last month, The Christian Institute welcomed news that a sweeping law which could have criminalised parents for raising children according to their religious beliefs would not be introduced.
The Institute had asked its supporters to contact their MP to raise concerns about the law that carried a maximum prison sentence of ten years for anyone who deliberately harmed a child’s “physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development”.
Many warned that such a law would be wide open to misuse against parents for trivial matters.
Children’s groups claimed it was needed to protect children, but social workers already had the power to intervene under civil law if a child was being subjected to emotional neglect.
The Serious Crime Bill, which could have included the plans, simply modernised the language of existing legislation and concluded its passage through the House of Lords with no amendments to introduce the proposals.
The Christian Institute’s Simon Calvert said last month: “We all want to protect children. But if this proposal had gone through, it would have harmed children by breaking up happy families. The state could have intervened at a very low level.”
“The fact that the Government changed its mind is a victory for common sense. We’re grateful to those who spoke out against these plans and put pressure on the Government to drop them.”