Peers allow parents a ‘light smack’ but dash hopes of a complete ban

Peers voted to allow parents to lightly smack their children last
week, rejecting calls for an outright ban.

The amendment would allow parents to administer smacking as a
reasonable punishment as long as it does not cause “physical or
mental harm”.

Lord Lester, who tabled the amendment, said: “There is a need to
strengthen legal protection for children whose parents are violent
towards them, but I do not believe that parents should be
criminalised for administering a light disciplinary smack because
it is technically a battery.”

The Children are Unbeatable Alliance, which represents more than
350 organisations and projects, believes a ban on all forms of
corporal punishment is needed.

The government had said it would not support a total ban on
smacking, arguing that the kind of punishment that causes injury
was clearly not “reasonable chastisement” and therefore already
against the law.

Peers also backed a government amendment for details of the types
of information stored on the government’s proposed databases on
children to be included in the Children Bill rather than left to

Baroness Ashton said the government had proposed the change in
response to calls from peers in the bill’s committee stage and from
the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee (news
analysis, page 19, 8 April).

The bill also confirms that the details of any person providing a
service to a child and any concerns they have about them will be
held. But Ashton said the database would not contain information
about children’s individual cases as discussed with

She said a formal public consultation on how practitioners should
register concerns on the database would be launched in autumn.

As the Lords discussed plans to develop a database, MPs revealed
that a similar system set up to track cattle after the BSE crisis
is “inefficient” and “overly burdensome” – and has resulted in the
“loss” of some 1.2 million cows in England.

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