UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has rejected a call for a ban on smacking children, arguing the state should not be “nannying” people about how to bring up their kids.
Earlier, Dame Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner for England, told Times Radio she would be “supportive” if the government decided to follow Scotland and Wales in banning physical punishment of children in England.
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.
There was a “very big difference” between a “light smack on the arm” and child abuse, he added.
“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.”
He said he had not smacked his 9-year-old daughter but her mother had “on occasion” when the child was being naughty.
Smacking of children has been banned in Scotland and Wales, and de Souza suggested that England should follow suit.
Last month, Wales made any type of corporal punishment, including smacking, hitting, slapping, and shaking, illegal in the region, scrapping 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 Labour government in Wales insisted the law change was about protecting children’s rights, and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the move should be mirrored in England and Northern Ireland, calling it “the right thing” to do.
But critics said it will criminalise parents disciplining children.
When Scotland introduced the ban in November 2020, the region’s children’s minister Maree Todd said it was “ensure that children, without exception, have the same protection from assault as adults.”
But campaign group Be Reasonable Scotland, which opposed the legislation, warned that “even the mildest physical discipline will be treated as abuse” and could lead to parents being prosecuted.
A spokesman for the group said: “In the years ahead, loving parents who have had no contact with the authorities previously and who present no risk to their children will face stressful intervention, blacklisting on police databases, and even criminal records for smacking.”
“The majority of Scots see this as an injustice, not a positive change,” he said.
PA Media contributed to this report.