Smacking ban thrown out

A BID to outlaw smacking failed last night when the House of Lords opted for a compromise allowing parents to use "mild" punishment.The move will make it a criminal offence to cause bruises, reddening of the skin or mental harm in England and Wales.

A BID to outlaw smacking failed last night when the House of Lords opted for a compromise allowing parents to use "mild" punishment.

The move will make it a criminal offence to cause bruises, reddening of the skin or mental harm in England and Wales.

Campaigners immediately denounced the decision as "shameful, unjust and irresponsible" and MPs will stage a second push for a ban when the issue goes back to the Commons.

It stands little chance, however, because of continuing opposition from Tony Blair. Ahead of the votes in the Lords, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We do not want to criminalise parents."


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Senior Labour MPs want a ban, including David Hinchliffe, Chairman of the all-party Health Select Committee who believes 100 backbenchers and a "significant" number of ministers supported him.

"I genuinely hope the Government will have the commonsense to allow a free vote and not whip it."

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However Shadow Secretary of State for the Family Theresa May believes even the compromise goes too far.

"As a result of these plans, we could see the authorities snooping into the lives of normal families, and missing those committing real acts of child abuse. Who will decide what constitutes an acceptable smack and one which breaks the law? There is no point in bringing in legislation which may prove to be unenforceable."

Peers the compromise measures -put forward by Liberal Democrat life peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill -by an overwhelming 226 votes to 91.

Lord Lester's proposals removed the defence of "reasonable chastisement" which dates back to 1860. Instead it will become a criminal offence to cause bruises or mental harm in England and Wales.

The amendment was backed by Lord Laming, who headed the inquiry into the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie who was abused and tortured by her great aunt and her boyfriend.

"We would all like every parent to have the skills and ability not to have to resort to physical punishment. The reality is quite different at the present time for many parents who may be tired, may be exhausted, may be harassed for a whole variety of reasons.

"The most important thing is to pursue constructive approaches towards the family and not rather negative ones," said Lord Laming.

However Tony Samphier, of the Children Are Unbeatable! Alliance, said the peers had "failed children,"

"It sends out a dangerous message to society that is still legally acceptable to assault a child. Hitting children is as unacceptable as hitting anyone else, and the law should clearly say so.

"Equal protection from assault for children is the only responsible and safe way to modernise the law."

The Lords voted on a series of amendments to the Children Bill.

Labour peers had been ordered by whips to vote against the outright ban.

However, they were given a free vote on the amendment from Lord Lester of Herne Hill allowing "moderate" smacking.

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