The smack of too much government

THERE may well be a vote later on today on the vexed question of whether parents should be allowed legally to smack their children

The amendment to the Children and Young Persons Bill has been tabled by Kevin Barron MP, who also proposed the full smoking ban two years ago.

Should parents smack their children? Probably not. Are those who smack their kids child abusers, or even bad parents? Not usually. Should parents who smack their children be criminalised at the stroke of a parliamentary clerk’s pen? Of course not.

And should police officers’ time be spent investigating the complaint of a three-year-old who’s annoyed because he got a smack on the legs from his harrassed mother? Is that the best use of police resources?

Finally, is it the role of the state to raise other people’s children? Of course not.

Physical chastisement isn’t necessarily (or even usually) abuse. And an unenforceable law would end up being obeyed only by those who are no risk to their children and completely ignored by those who are the worst offenders.

So if we reach that particular amendment while I’m still here, I’ll be voting against.



Filed under Parliament, Society

37 responses to “The smack of too much government

  1. Peter

    Right answer! Presumably this amendment is not supported by the Labour party?

  2. No, the government doesn’t support it.

  3. Will S

    Finally something we can all agree on 😛

  4. Johnny Norfolk

    Tom. You have seen the light. Lets have more of this. I Totally and fully agree with you on this.
    Thank goodness a bit of common sense.

  5. Chris' Wills

    Well well, something we agree on :o)

  6. Andrew F

    The law is supposed to protect the most vulnerable members of society, not exclude them from protections afforded to everyone else. In practical terms, you have a point – but morally, it’s a no-brainer. Assault is assault. No civillised society should make exceptions.

  7. Johnny Norfolk

    I smack to a naughty child is not assault. It is quite the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard.How many children have you brought up Andrew F.

  8. “Finally, is it the role of the state to raise other people’s children? Of course not.”

    Surestart, etc. etc. etc.

    IMHO, allowing parents to hit kids treats them as property where they should be treated as people. Would like to see the line change on this one.

    There is certainly a case, at the very least, for a statutory redefinition of reasonable chastisement.

  9. What a wonderful article!

    I only remember getting two major beltings from my dad, so I must have deserved them. Maybe a third would have done the trick, but I’m grateful now for the chastisement.

    What the government has been doing is slowly-but-surely making normal things criminal to get more people into the ‘system’.

    What is also absurd is that the same people want to make abortion easier still, like Mary Honeyball MEP and friends.

    You can have your unborn child crushed to death and sucked out the womb, but if you let him live, don’t dare smack him or you’ll have the police round for assault.

    I often wonder what can be excused due to mental illness and what is just pure evil.

  10. Brian

    Having being given a tanned hide twice in my life, I fully support the efforts of parents to keep on smacking.

    There’s no better teacher than a sore arse as they used to say.

    Certainly would be the cure for ADD; a non-syndrome if ever there was one to account for parents hurt feelings on their children being lazy and disruptive.

  11. I disagree, Tom. I think it is a disgrace that if I slapped you, who are well able to defend yourself, I could end up in jail, but if I delivered the same slap to my 9 year old daughter I would get away with it.

    I remember the sheer terror and pain of the smackings I got as a child, from knowing all day I was going to get it before bed to the utter humiliation and pain, often delivered for no good reason and to little effect, that I don’t think any child should ever be put through it.

    I hope that this measure to protect children gets passed.

  12. Martin Cullip

    “The amendment to the Children and Young Persons Bill has been tabled by Kevin Barron MP, who also proposed the full smoking ban two years ago.”

    Sounds like a right pain in the Harris. 😉

    Andrew F, I thought you were more clever than that, but then you haven’t got kids. Caron, you’re just plain daft, there is a big difference between ritual and unwarranted smacking and the ultimate deterrent for seriously bad behaviour. My son is 7 and I have smacked him maybe 5 times in his life. Once was when he climbed the railing on the edge of the 6th floor of a multi-storey car park, another time when he ran into our road aged 3 just as a car was coming along. What am I supposed to do? Talk to him gently and give him a hug? You can do that, I will do it my way & I know for certain that he won’t bloody do either again. Prosecute if you like, but I’m not stopping the practice of making sure my kids grow up safe, polite, and not the little brats I see from friends of mine who seem to think a quiet chat and a cuddle will suffice.

    Why do the ‘Righteous’ always point to the worst case scenario as some reasoning why everyone should be controlled? As usual, you seem to forget that laws already exist for outrages in any behaviour, such as abusive smacking. No need for any new law. Kevin Barron is a tool.

    Congratulations on your stance once again Tom.

  13. Martin Cullip

    Sorry Caron, I think I was a bit harsh on you, I just saw that you are a (il)Liberal Democrat so quite naturally believe in banning everything. My mistake.

  14. Jeremy Poynton

    Too much government? Tell us about it Tom, that’s you you are talking about. Do tell us about it, whilst I pop out to check the wheelie lid isn’t open.

  15. dreamingspire

    Good on you, Tom. Freed from the unreality of DfT, you can do some good. But why didn’t Ruth take a stick to those in Marsham St, with you in close support?

  16. Johnny Norfolk

    Thank goodness this bill has failed. If only Labour could have applied this kind of common sense to so much that they have done, the party would not be as low in the polls as it is.

    You just wonder who these people are who want to stop parents bringing up their children. There is a big difference between a clip and hurting a child in a brutal way, and and anything like that is covered by plenty of exsisting laws. All it would have done is create all sorts of legal problams.

  17. “….So if we reach that particular amendment while I’m still here, I’ll be voting against.”

    Did you have somewhere more important to go, young Tom? A dinner? The Theatre? A friend’s house? We should be told.

  18. Andrew F

    Johnny Norfolk – it has nothing to do with whether I raised a child. I’m sure some parents occasionally want to hit their kids, but that certainly doesn’t mean they should have a right to.
    That’s the whole bloody point of criminal laws: to stop people from doing things that they would otherwise.

  19. There aren’t many Labour ex-ministers who, when they’re let off the leash, choose to speak in a lexicon that is more RIGHT-wing.

  20. Auntie Flo'

    Well said, Tom.

    I smacked my daughter once during her childhood and feel I had no choice in order to stop her endangering herself

    My daughter, who was in her buggy at the time, had an attack of the terrible twos and threw an angry tantrum when she was told that she couldn’t have sweets. Stiff as a board and crying uncontrollably, “weets, mummy!’, she stood up in her harness and began propelling herself up the backrest of the buggy and out of the harness, thereby forcing the buggy over backwards. As she would not respond to anything else, I slapped her leg and the tantrum instantly stopped.

    What would the anti-smacking brigade do in such circumstances – allow a child to injure herself?

  21. Johnny Norfolk

    I see you are at it again with libaries, wnating to change. Qute in the Times

    “Mr Burnham will say: “The popular public image of libraries as solemn and sombre places, patrolled by fearsome and formidable staff is decades out of date, but is nonetheless taken for granted by too many people.”

    He will also say: “Libraries should be a place for families and joy and chatter. The word chatter might strike fear into the heart of traditionalists but libraries should be social places that offer an antidote to the isolation of someone playing on the internet at home.”

    Why can you just not leave things like this alone. They have done something similar in one of my local libaries and I now never go in. Its like Bedlam.
    Open internet type cafes if you must, but please leave our libaries alone.

  22. Zorro

    Andrew F it has everything to do with whether you’ve brought up children.

    Especially as this is an issue which Tom and I agree on, which means you are a complete radical on this. To espouse that point of view with no experience of children is faintly ludicrous.

  23. The smack of too much government – A market trader was convicted yesterday of selling fruit and vegetables using imperial measures – even though the EU says it should not be an offence.

    Metric Martyrs

    The poor woman faces financial ruin now because of the army of snoopers and jobsworths.

    Here is a picture of two Hackney Trading Standards “Officers” seizing her scales, assisted by the Police.

    That makes me so mad!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaagh!

  24. Brian Hall

    Theres a problem with the dare I say idiot’s who occupy the anti-smacking brigade.

    They don’t realise children AREN’T adults. Children CAN be aggressive and violent!
    Children CAN risk injury to themselves, other children or adults WITH INTENT!

    This is what children do! It is all a part of growing up!

    But because they are children they do NOT share the responsibilities of an adult so cannot be sent to jail/fined. As a results as they do not have the responsibilities of an adult they SHOULD NOT have the rights of an adult.

  25. Indy


    The UK is becoming increasingly isolated in Europe in that it does not give children the same legal protection against assault that adults have.

    Doesn’t look like that is going to change any time soon.

    Not completely clear about why something which is possible in most European countries is not possible in the UK. i.e. to give children the same protection under the law on assault as adults enjoy.

    That is what you would be voting against – not a ‘smacking ban’. It’s not about criminalising someone for giving a toddler a smack on the back of the leg. It’s about criminalising physical violence which would constitute an assault if perpetrated by an adult on another adult but is allowable if perpetrated by an adult on a child.

    You don’t need to be a bleeding heart liberal to see there is something a bit sick about that. Surely children, being more vulnerable to assault than adults, deserve more protection not less.

    But perhaps arguments in favour will be revealed in the debate, if things go that far.

    Would point out to everyone who believes it is a wacky idea – 40 or 50 years ago men had a perfect right to smack their wives. No-one thinks that is acceptable now, so opinions can change and opinion on smacking children has changed in most other European countries.

    Are they really all wrong and we are right?

  26. Martin, I’m not sure why it is illiberal to want to give children the same protection from physical assault as adults have. Just because I choose not to smack my daughter doesn’t mean that she isn’t disciplined. She has her moments, but in general she’s pretty well behaved. We deal with the relatively rare episodes of bad behaviour in other ways. It’s not like violence is some necessary child rearing tool that parents are being deprived of. How on earth can children learn that violence is a bad thing if the people they are supposed to trust the most use it on them? As far as banning things is concerned, I’m not keen on it unless there is a very good reason. Protecting children is a good enough reason for me.

    Auntie Flo, anyone who has ever had children has gone through the tantrum thing, in public. It’s a nightmare. As you asked, what I would have done in that circumstance was simply ensure that the buggy couldn’t be pushed backwards and that the child couldn’t hurt herself – and otherwise stayed calm and ignored the bad behaviour. I would not have hit a child who had completely lost emotional control. I was always determined that never, ever would my daughter get anything she threw a wobbly about and I’ve held to that.

  27. Johnny Norfolk

    If a woman smacks a man accross the face because he has touched her up, is that an offence.? of course not.
    Some people need to grow up and come into the real world. Some of these comments about assaults on childrn are just stupid. It is these people that have made Britain hell on earth with their soft mard ideas. they have no idea what they are talking about.

  28. “…because he has touched her up”? Who are you, Bernard Manning?

  29. Johnny Norfolk

    All right Tom. Something improper if you prefere please feel free to edit.( feel free meaning to do it if you want , not something improper.)

  30. Indy

    Johnny Norfolk – if a woman slaps a man on the face because he has touched her up – no that is not likely to be considered an offence (though the touching up might be). On the other hand if a man slaps a woman on the face because she has failed to have his tea ready on time that could be considered an offence. Certainly if he did it on a frequent basis it would be.

    Similarly if a parent slaps their child on the back of the legs on the odd occasion I don’t think it should be considered an offence. But if they did it repeatedly? I think that should be considered an offence in the same way as the behaviour of a husband who smacks his wife repeatedly is considered as an offence. At the moment however you can smack at will as long as it is a child.

    Perhaps Westminster – or in our case the Scottish Parliament as the issue is devolved here – should look a bit more closely at how other countries manage this instead of the rather polarised debate that exists now. It is possible that we can learn from them.

  31. Bedd Gelert

    YES ! YES ! YES ! No, I’m not having an orgasm, but it is wonderful for someone to say this out loud !!

    Well Done Tomski !! Not sure if ‘links’ can be posted here, but one needs to scan the following responses to an article by Mark Easton, and some statistics about teachers quoted in the Daily Telegraph.

    I don’t want to see children slapped about the head indiscriminately for minor misdeamenours – but the worst abuse of a child is lack of love and discipline where no boundaries for bad behaviour are set.

    I am annoyed that the NSPCC simply cannot see a difference between a child who has done something dangerous being smacked, and neglect or ‘child abuse’.

  32. “Finally, is it the role of the state to raise other people’s children? Of course not.”
    What about children in care because their parents are unfit? Doesn’t the state raise them to some degree?
    To a lesser extent: what about the pastoral role of education which is provided by the state to 93% of children.
    The state is already involved and doing a pretty good job – unless of course you want to slag of state schooling and social services departments in which case can I direct you towards Tory blogs where I expect to read such spite.

  33. I walk past you Tom, you do something I don’t like, so I smack you… You’re happy with that? Of course, you’re old enough, and big enough, to fight back and tell me you don’t like it. A 2 year old doesn’t have that protection, and it would appear you are supporting government sponsored violence.

    Would it have something to do with the fact that Children and Young People can’t vote, so it would appear they don’t have the same protection?

    If you are saying that Children should be given a smack every now and then, why not make it like that for everyone.

    I’m happy that my employer was one of the MP’s who supported the amendment and it’s just a shame it never even got the chance to be voted on.

  34. Pingback: The smack of too much government « Stewart Cowan’s Weblog

  35. Brian

    Sam, should we then be allowed to right hook any children who try to attack adults? I might be justified in doing so in a pub if an adult attacks me; but not a child.

    I’m quite happy with that arrangement if you are willing to bring it into force.

  36. Mark

    What an utter load of old tosh. I work for the police and the repercussion for an adult for doing something wrong is to go into the legal system. Would we caution a three year old? Would we charge a seven year old for assaulting their sister or treat them as insane because they are too young to know the difference between running to school or running out infront of a car? Those who consider it assault to smack a child must surely conider it false imprisonment to ground them, theft to take away their games and maybe if a parent climbs on their own childrens bike and rides it off to the shop for five minutes has committed theft of pedal cycle?

    Do you trust the police to deal with parents fairly when there is the all too easy target of solving a violent crime? De minimis it is not, not when the government measures police performance by the number of charges and cautions they can get away with. I work for the police and this is becoming a sickness. Mr and Mrs Smith at the end of their tether, having tried everything with little Billy for being naughy, finally decide that the threat of a smacked botty is just not enough. So Billy gets a tap, a very light but nevertheless shocking tap. Neighbour sees it and in come the cops. Ask yourself, whilst sitting in a custody suite given the option of taking your chances at court or accepting a caution for assault, are you going to take a punt? Crown prosecution service? forget it, its the police who decide charge on a full admission and if the law is changed you wont have the protection of a defence to lawful chastisement! So, do you feel lucky Mum and Dad? So you cave in, as many do, and you say, Ok I’ll take the caution. Now consider you have a caution for assaulting a child. Fancy a career in teaching? Dont waste your ink.

    And remember its a short hop from tap to grab by the arm to drag home. Both are assault! If I locked my wife in the bedroom I would quite rightly be arrested. Even if we keep the current law on being able to administer punishment that is reasonable by putting kiddy to bed, how are you going to get there without using force to do it? Where is the defence in law? There is none.

    Do not be fooled by the politically correct luvvies hoping for Utopia. They are the danger to society now.

  37. Martin Cullip

    Brilliant, Mark.

    Isn’t it a bit of a coincidence that since this ‘smacking is bad, OK?’ nonsense came in about a decade ago, there has been a corresponding increase in teen violence about a decade later?

    As someone who works in transport, there is also an incredible rise in the incidences of schoolkids wandering across the road without the need to look and just expecting cars to stop for them … in my experience, often accompanied by an abusive gesture to the driver.

    Even the tone of advertising has changed. It’s not now the Green Cross Man telling kids to stay safe, instead it’s ads telling people that if you drive, kids will die as they walk out in the road without looking. Which they are doing now without the recourse to someone telling them they are wrong to do so.

    Message being: Do what you want kids, if someone runs you over, it’s their fault, if you get a smack for being abusive, it’s your parents’ fault, if you stab someone, it’s someone else’s fault.

    ‘Won’t somebody please think of the children!?!’ I wish they would as they are not going to stay sweet forever and are growing up abusive and without hope BECAUSE of crap like this.

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