Welsh Assembly votes to pass smacking Bill at first hurdle

Last night Assembly Members voted to pass the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill at Stage 1 by 36 votes to 15, with AMs largely voting along party lines. (9 AMs did not vote). See how AMs voted

The Bill will now progress to Stage 2, and go back to committee for detailed scrutiny and consideration of amendments. A date for Stage 2 is yet to be announced.
During the Stage 1 debate on the general principles of the Bill, many AMs spoke strongly against a ban.

Caroline Jones AM told the Assembly: “I’ve been inundated with calls and emails from concerned parents who fear they’ll be turned into criminals.”
She argues: “Reasonable chastisement is not abuse. It is the discipline given by a loving parent”.

Darren Millar AM said the Government needs to be “acting positively and supporting parents, not criminalising them”. He continued: “We’ve already got comprehensive legislation in place that the police, social services and others do use to prosecute cases against people who abuse their children, and quite rightly they should do that because, of course, those people should feel the full weight of the law and face the consequences if they are abusing their children. But most parents who use the occasional smack do so within the confines of a loving relationship with the child who they want to raise to be a responsible adult and someone who can contribute to society usefully in the future.”

Commenting on the unquantified costs of a smacking ban, he added: “It would be irresponsible for us to allow this piece of legislation to proceed when there’s no price tag attached to it.”

Independent AM Neil McEvoy told the Assembly: “I don’t support smacking, but I also do not support telling other parents how to bring their children up.”

He argues that children are already being overlooked and that stretching resources more thinly will not help them.

Mr McEvoy, citing a senior serving police officer who wrote anonymously to AMs last week, said: “There is no need for a smacking ban… Children are already protected from abuse and physical harm. As officers we know where the line is drawn and so do the public at large.”

Mandy Jones AM reminded the chamber that she was abused as a child, and commented: “There is a massive spectrum between a tap on the hand and a punch in the face, and I should know that… This Bill represents a disproportionate interference in family life by the state and I cannot support that level of interference. It could lead to a parent being prosecuted for a mild smack… Evidence does not show that a light tap does anything to harm a child whatsoever. In fact, in some situations it can communicate danger to a child in a way that verbal reasoning cannot.”

Janet Finch-Saunders AM called the ban “a nanny state approach, which disagrees that it is parents who are best placed to decide on the appropriate punishment or discipline for a child”.

Mark Isherwood AM tells the Assembly: “I haven’t spoken to a single person outside the Cardiff Bay bubble who supports this Bill.” Reading an email from a constituent, he states: “Most of us were smacked as children… We would not accuse our parents of abuse”.

Watch the debate
Read the transcript