Child smacking ban opposed by ministers in Wales

Child looking out of window AMs last voted in favour of a ban on smacking in 2011

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A bid to ban parents smacking children is being opposed by Welsh government ministers.

Assembly members are due to vote on an amendment, tabled by Plaid Cymru AM Lindsay Whittle, seeking to outlaw smacking in Wales.

Ministers believe the assembly has the power to change the law, but have ruled out doing so before the 2016 election. They also fear a legal challenge.

AMs have symbolically voted in favour of a ban in the past.

However, the amendment to the Social Services and Well-being Bill goes further than earlier votes and removes the defence of reasonable punishment for assaulting a child.

It is not clear how much support the amendment will attract, but it already has the backing of Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams.

Mr Whittle declined to comment before the vote, which is expected on Tuesday, takes place.

'Bad law-making'

First Minister Carwyn Jones has previously said he believes it is within the assembly's powers to amend the criminal law and make it illegal to smack children.

However, ministers fear any attempt to ban smacking will be challenged in court.

Start Quote

A change of this nature, without appropriate public consultation, would not be the right thing to do”

End Quote Spokesman Welsh government

A source close to the cabinet said trying to use the Social Services and Well-being Bill to ban smacking at this late stage without consulting the public would be "bad law-making" and could jeopardise an important piece of legislation.

"The bill next week is a serious landmark piece of legislation and it's not something we want to risk or interfere with in this way," the source said.

Some Labour AMs have been vocal supporters of outlawing smacking.

In October 2011 Julie Morgan and Christine Chapman co-sponsored an assembly motion with Mr Whittle and Ms Williams calling for a ban.

The Labour group will be instructed to oppose the amendment when the bill comes back to the Senedd chamber next Tuesday.

But BBC Wales understands Labour AMs who want a ban are negotiating with the Welsh government to find another opportunity for a similar vote in the future.

A Plaid Cymru source said the amendment could be removed if ministers offer to introduce a ban in another piece of legislation.

A Welsh government spokesman said: "The Welsh government could not support any amendment to the social services bill on the physical punishment of children.

"A change of this nature, without appropriate public consultation, would not be the right thing to do.

"We are committed to continue promoting positive parenting and disciplinary alternatives to physical punishment."

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