Parents should not be stigmatised if they choose to smack their children, a Labour MP has said.
David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham in London, backed the right of parents to smack their children and criticised those who claim it is abuse, commenting: “There’s a big difference between abuse and parenting.”
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 Lammy, in comments on the Mumsnet parenting website, criticised politicians for not listening to parents, saying: “Over the last few decades, Westminster has spent more time telling them what not to do as opposed to offering them practical support.
“The endless back and forth about smacking in the early 2000s exemplified this.”
He also warned: “Its too easy for middle class legislators to be far removed from the realities of the typical single mum struggling with these issues”.
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″.
He described the situation in his constituency with parents telling 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”.
Mr Lammy commented: “Unfortunately, some parents do abuse their children but we should be careful not to stigmatise the majority.”
Under the Children Act 2004 any smack that leaves more than a temporary mark may be illegal. Any smack that causes reddening of the skin that is more than transitory could potentially result in a prison sentence.
In 2009 Northern Ireland’s Children’s Commissioner claimed parents who smack their children are like ‘child abusers’.
Patricia Lewsley responded “no” when asked if she thought there was any difference between a person deliberately setting out to harm a child and a loving parent smacking in the hope of making their child a better person.