Smacking ban rejected by Welsh Assembly

An amendment to ban smacking was rejected by the Welsh Assembly last night by 39 votes to 14.

The defeat means that the defence of “reasonable punishment” will still stand in law. Deputy Minister Gwenda Thomas argued that the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill was not the “correct Bill for this matter”.

During the debate Thomas said the Welsh Government would, however, consider the issue again before the 2016 Assembly election.

Criminalise

Critics of the amendment argue a ban would criminalise loving parents simply seeking to discipline their children.

AMs from the Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem parties voted against the ban. Tory AM Darren Millar said there was “an obvious difference between discipline and abuse”.

Two years ago a Mail on Sunday public survey showed that nearly two thirds of the British public supported a parent’s right to smack.

Supreme Court

Concerns have also been raised over whether the Welsh Assembly has the power to introduce a ban on smacking, since it would involve changing criminal law, which is not devolved.

Deputy Minister Thomas mentioned a previous warning from Westminster which said that removing the defence of reasonable punishment “would not be in the legislative competence of the Assembly” and passing it could result in the Supreme Court getting involved.

The Welsh Government reportedly rejected the amendment amidst concern that a public consultation on the issue would slow the passage of the Bill down.

Harmful delay

Thomas told AMs that voting for the anti-smacking amendment, could cause a “significant and harmful delay” to other aspects of the Bill coming into force.

“There will be opportunities to examine this issue in forthcoming legislation in this Assembly term,” she added.

Those campaigning for a ban include Labour AMs Christine Chapman and Julie Morgan.

In a joint statement they said: “We will continue with this campaign to make a ban on the physical punishment of children happen as soon as possible.”

Ideologically driven

During the five-hour debate on the Bill several Conservative AMs spoke out against the amendment, including South Wales West AM Byron Davies who said the move was “ideologically driven”.

North Wales AM Antoinette Sandbach also emphasised that children were sufficiently protected by existing law.

In 2002, Westminster rejected proposals to ban smacking following a public consultation, which showed that 70 per cent of the public said they felt there was no need for a change in the law.

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