ENGLAND'S Education Secretary has rejected calls from the country's Children's Commissioner to follow Scotland and Wales's lead and ban smacking.

Nadhim Zahawi said parents should be trusted to make their own decisions about whether to smack their children.

He said mothers and fathers are “entitled” to be able to discipline their youngsters.

Dame Rachel de Souza earlier told Times Radio she would be “supportive” if the Government decided to follow Scotland and Wales in banning physical punishment of children, suggesting it is something that should be considered in England.

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But Zahawi said he did not believe the state should be “nannying” parents about the way they bring up their children.

“My very strong view is that actually we have got to trust parents on this, and parents being able to discipline their children is something that they should be entitled to do,” the minister told Times Radio.

“We have got to just make sure we don’t end up in a world where the state is nannying people about how they bring up their children.”

Wales last month made any type of corporal punishment, including smacking, hitting, slapping and shaking, illegal in the country.

The National: Dame Rachel de Souza (in hat) thinks England should consider following Wales and Scotland in banning smacking of children (Yui Mok/PA)Dame Rachel de Souza (in hat) thinks England should consider following Wales and Scotland in banning smacking of children (Yui Mok/PA)

Scotland introduced a similar ban in November 2020.

Souza earlier urged ministers to look at how the legislation moved through the Welsh assembly and said she would support a decision to follow suit.

“Scotland and Wales have done this (banned the physical punishment of children). So we’ve learnt a lot about what that would mean, as it goes into legislation,” she told Times Radio.

“I think we’ve got a great opportunity to look, watch it, as it’s embedded (in Wales), and I would be supportive — certainly, from what I’ve seen so far — I would be supportive if our Government decided to do the same.”


Although Souza acknowledged that “protections” for children are already “enshrined in law” in England, she expressed admiration for the actions of the Scottish and Welsh governments, adding: “It’s certainly something that I think we should consider.”

In Scotland, the "smacking ban" was introuduced in The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019 which made it the first country in the UK to outlaw the punishment.

In Wales, it was brought in under the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act 2020 and marks the end of the common law defence of “reasonable punishment”.

Parents or anyone who is responsible for a child while the parents are absent can now face criminal or civil charges if they are found to have physically disciplined a young person in any way.

The National: The Welsh Government outlawed the physical punishment of a child in March (Welsh Government/PA)The Welsh Government outlawed the physical punishment of a child in March (Welsh Government/PA)

Critics of the law change have said it will criminalise parents, but the Welsh Government insisted the move was about protecting children’s rights.

Labour leader Keir Starmer previously said the move should be mirrored in England and Northern Ireland, calling it “the right thing” to do.

A survey commissioned by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found more than two-thirds of adults in England believe it is wrong for parents or carers to physically punish their child, with 58% thinking it was already illegal.

More than 60 nations worldwide have legislated against the physical punishment of children.

The Times reported that a government source said there were no plans to change the law in England.

The National: Smacking children has been illegal in Scotland since 2019Smacking children has been illegal in Scotland since 2019

Meanwhile, the Conservative chair of the Education Select Committee has called for a debate in the House of Commons on whether parents should be permitted to smack their children.

The MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon, said: “If I walked down to the frontbench and smacked the Leader of the House I would be possibly done for assault, if I smacked a dog I would be possibly done for cruelty to that dog.

"Yet, when we talk about the smacking of children, we say that it’s a nanny state if we question this – even though we tell parents they must put seatbelts in the back of cars for children’s safety.

“Now, whilst I am not calling for an outright ban on smacking children, I recognise that parents bring up children the best way they can, I do think that the Children’s Commissioner is courageous and right to raise these matters in The Times, as she has done, and I do think that we need to discuss these matters very carefully and have a debate.

"And so, can we have a debate when the House… after the Queen’s Speech, about smacking for children, whether it should be permitted?”

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Commons Leader Mark Spencer said parents “have the right to chastise their children in a way in which they see fit”.

He replied: “I think it is something which is worthy of debate, I think colleagues across the House would want to engage with that debate. I will say on a personal level, I do think that parents have the right to chastise their children in a way in which they see fit.

“But there clearly is a line where that stretches over into abuse. You know, the authorities are very robust in making sure children are safe in the United Kingdom.

"But it is something which is worthy of debate and I would encourage him to apply for an adjournment debate or a backbench business debate.”