Lord slammed as ‘ignorant’ after suggesting Wales’ smacking ban was to frighten children from going to England
A top academic has criticised a Lord and former Telegraph and Spectator editor after his “ignorant” comments about Wales’ new child smacking laws.
Charles Moore, Baron Moore of Etchingham, openly mused in his column whether the new law was a bid to discourage Wales’ children from venturing into England in case they were smacked.
Physically punishing children became illegal in Wales on Monday, leaving England as the only nation in Britain where it is legal to slap a child.
But writing in the Spectator, Charles Moore said: “Wales is the part of the United Kingdom I know least well, so I cannot speak with authority, but I do question the Welsh government decision to criminalise the principality’s parents if they smack their children.
“Does Mark Drakeford, the First Minister, have such a dark view of his compatriots that he thinks their homes must be policed in this way? Are there not laws already which punish actual cruelty to children?
“Or is he simply trying to frighten them from crossing the border, where his law does not apply?
“Devolved politicians love exterior bogeymen. I can imagine Welsh kiddies being warned not to catch the train at Knighton, say, or pass over the bridge from Chepstow to Sedbury, thus entering, in both cases, the smacking-friendly zone of England.”
Professor Laura McAllister who is co-chair of the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales, said she found it odd why many political commentators in England felt the need to comment on Welsh matters they had no expertise in.
“This – at least self-confessed – display of dismissive ignorance by Charles Moore in the Spectator underlines how weirdly obsessed the English are with other nations’ laws and borders, when it suits their arguments,” she said.
The smacking ban in Wales removed what the Welsh Government called “the archaic 160-year-old legal defence” and provides children with the same protection from assault as adults. The law applied to everybody in Wales, including visitors, from 21 March.
Under the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act 2020 all types of physical punishment, such as smacking, hitting, slapping and shaking, are now illegal. It means that parents could now be charged with offences such as actual bodily harm.
The so-called ‘smacking ban’ has been opposed by Welsh Conservatives who have said that it will lead to a will lead to a “Stasi culture” and the UK Government has no plans for such a law change in England.
But Wales’ Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan said it was a “historic moment for children and their rights in Wales as we make physically punishing children a thing of the past”.
“I have campaigned to make physical punishment illegal for more than 20 years. I am thrilled that from today children finally have the same protection from assault as adults,” she said.
“The law is now clear – easier for children, parents, professionals and the public to understand. Physical punishment is illegal in Wales and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.
“We want to protect children and their rights and this law will add to the fantastic work we are doing to make sure all children in Wales have the best start in life and to live the lives they want to live.”
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