UK Labour leader Keir Starmer calls for Wales’ smacking ban to be extended to England
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for Wales’ smacking ban to be extended to England.
Physically punishing children is now illegal in Wales after a new law came into force today, leaving England as the only nation in Britain where it is legal to slap a child.
Under new law removed what the Welsh Government called an “archaic 160-year-old legal defence” and outlaws all types of physical punishment, such as smacking, hitting, slapping and shaking.
Speaking on a visit to Stevenage, Sir Keir said the move was “welcome. What it does is give children the protection that adults already have, and that is the right thing,” he said.
“I would like to see the rest of the UK step into line here, because I think, well, Welsh Labour have taken a lead here and they’re absolutely right to protect children in the way that they now have.”
The SNP in Scotland brought in a ban in November 2020.
The so-called ‘smacking ban’ has however 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.
Welsh Conservatives Senedd Member Gareth Davies had criticised the ban, saying that the Welsh Government “didn’t seem to be able to let go of the authoritarianism developed during the pandemic”.
“A campaign that urges people to report those who use more traditional parenting methods than nosey ones in the Labour Government is introducing a Stasi culture to Wales.
“I urge the Labour Government to urgently rethink the campaign and inform parents of the new law rather than urge people to report their fellow citizens who are parenting their children as they see fit.”
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.”
The First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford said he was “delighted the physical punishment of children is now illegal in Wales”.
“This is a historic achievement for children and their rights,” he said.
“The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it clear that children have the right to be protected from harm and from being hurt and this includes physical punishment. That right is now enshrined in Welsh law.
“No more grey areas. No more ‘defence of reasonable punishment.’ That is all in the past. There is no place for physical punishment in a modern Wales.”
Viv Laing, from NSPCC Cymru/Wales, said: “Until now, children were the only group in our society who it was acceptable to strike in certain circumstances. We don’t allow the physical punishment of adults or animals, so it is absurd that we have for so long with children. NSPCC Cymru/Wales has long been clear on this, and now, at last, the law is too.”
Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners Wales, Dr Rowena Christmas, said: “The evidence is absolutely compelling that physically punishing a child can be harmful to the wellbeing of both child and parent.
“It offers no benefit that cannot be gained from another method of discipline but is associated with a broad range of harms that can last a lifetime.”
Stephen Thomas, headteacher of Ysgol y Bryn Llanelli, said: “Physical punishment has no place in raising children. Providing consistency, good routines and being role models for our children in the values we would like them to display creates good people.”
Also supporting the new law, Pam Kelly, Chief Constable of Gwent Police, said: “Our role as police officers, while working with other safeguarding agencies in Wales, is to provide support and reassurance to families, not to criminalise them.
“However it is important to recognise that discipline and physical punishment of children are not the same thing.”
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