Wales politics

New attempt by AMs to ban smacking of children in Wales

Boy on stairs
Image caption Carwyn Jones has said the assembly has the power to ban smacking

A fresh attempt is to be made to ban parents in Wales from smacking their children.

A cross-party group of assembly members will call for a legal defence of "chastisement" to be removed.

The Welsh government said it wanted to make physical punishment unacceptable by promoting "positive alternatives".

A previous attempt to outlaw the smacking of children in Wales ran into a dispute about whether the assembly had powers to pass such a law.

However, First Minister Carwyn Jones has told AMs the Welsh government believes the assembly has the necessary powers to amend the criminal law.

Four AMs seeking a ban - two Labour, one Plaid Cymru, and the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats - have tabled a debate in the Senedd on Wednesday.

They will urge the Welsh government to bring forward legislation that would end the availability of the chastisement defence for an offence of assaulting a child.

In a letter to two of them, seen by BBC Wales, Mr Jones says it is the view of Welsh ministers that it is possible for the assembly to amend the criminal law and "end the availability of the defence of reasonable punishment for those cases where it still applies to an offence of assaulting a child".

In its manifesto for the last assembly election, Labour said it would "work to make physical punishment of children and young people unacceptable through the promotion of positive alternatives".

One of the AMs seeking a smacking ban, Labour's Christine Chapman, said similar bans had been successful in several other countries.

'Physical force'

She said: "There's a lot to suggest smacking doesn't work.

"What message are you giving out that in order for them to do what you want you have got to use physical force? Really, we are way behind other countries."

Mrs Chapman, the mother of two grown-up children, said she regretted smacking her daughter a couple of times when she was younger.

"I really wish at the time there had been information about this being wrong. I feel terrible now," she said.

She is tabling the debate for Wednesday with another Labour AM, Julie Morgan, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams and Plaid Cymru AM Lindsay Whittle.

Mr Whittle said: "This is something where the assembly could really make a major impact, one of the first big laws we could pass since the new powers."

He said enforcing a ban on smacking children would be "no more difficult than any other act of violence against individuals".

A government spokesman said: "This government is committed to work to make physical punishment of children and young people unacceptable through the promotion of positive alternatives and we believe this is the best place to start."

Conservative AM Darren Millar opposes a ban and said while did not condone any abuse of children, whether physical of mental, parents should have the right to chastise them.

"Physical chastisement is a tool," said Mr Millar, the AM for Clwyd West. "It's not the only tool but it can be extremely effective and useful, and can be far less damaging.

"I think the vast majority of parents know where to draw the line. People use it as a reasonable punishment and they ought to be able to continue to do so."

Mr Millar said in the last assembly there had been a balance among AMs against physical punishment of children, but it would be interesting to see the current situation, with many new members.

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