Phillips opposes smacking ban bid

By Graham DinesPolitical EditorA SUFFOLK life peer last night supported the right of parents to smack their children, claiming an outright ban would criminalise "a cherished tradition.

By Graham Dines

Political Editor

A SUFFOLK life peer last night supported the right of parents to smack their children, claiming an outright ban would criminalise "a cherished tradition."

Lord Phillips of Sudbury (Liberal Democrat) was speaking in a House of Lords debate against an amendment to the Children's Bill from Lady Finlay which would outlaw the practice.

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The Lords were voting on a series of amendments to the Children Bill which would smacking curbed or made illegal, with the Government opposed to an outright ban.

"To create a serious criminal offence as this is intended to be, which makes citizens guilty without any proof of malign intent, or of unreasonableness - or indeed of harm - is entirely contrary to our cherished traditions," said Lord Phillips.

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Supporting physical correction, Lord Phillips suggested "as long as it is well signalled, reasonable and loving, a quick hard smack is usually emotionally understood, effective and often brings closure to seriously wilful misbehaviour."

Lord Phillips said later: "If this amendment is passed, the law of the land will be that any parent giving any physical correction to any child under any circumstances will be automatically guilty of a criminal offence.

"State intrusiveness into parenting will then have become not just unwise but dangerous in its scope, penetrating into the inner most sanctum of the home.

"The law would then have passed automatic judgment on the most intimate aspects of the wonderfully complex relationship which exists between parents and children."

Lord Phillips added: "Parents have extensive duties - moral and legal - towards their children, part of which is to train and discipline them conscientiously.

"If the law forbids any physical discipline or correction whatsoever, discipline will rest entirely on what might be called psychological punishment."

During the debate, Lady Finlay, who claimed her amendment aimed to prevent the escalation of battery into systematic abuse, said parental control could be achieved without inflicting violence. "Calm loving will develop a disciplined mind, chaotic violent families teach violence to their children."

Lady Finlay, a crossbencher, who was backed by Liberal Democrat Baroness Walmsley, Labour rebel Baroness Whitaker and the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Kenneth Stevenson, urged peers to back her amendment.

The Government imposed a whip on Labour peers for the move to outlaw smacking, but allowed them a free vote on Lord Lester's amendment, under which any parent who inflicted actual bodily harm on a child could be prosecuted and would no longer have the protection of the "reasonable chastisement' defence which dates back to 1860.

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