Same story from BBC online:
Pressure grows over smacking law
Pressure is growing for the law on parents smacking their children to be tightened amid fears that abusers use current rules to excuse their actions.
Two parliamentary reports out on Tuesday call for an end to the defence of "reasonable chastisement" in England and Wales.
According to the health select committee and the joint committee on human rights, that legal defence has too often been used to excuse violence against children.
The human rights committee says the change should not mean parents were prosecuted for "mild" smacks on children.
In England alone, about 80 children die from physical abuse each year.
The government has decided not to change the law on smacking because it says most people support the status quo.
"The issue is not just about smacking, the issue is about affording children greater respect"
Health select committee
Peers and MPs have criticised that decision which they say is incompatible with the United Nations convention on children's rights which the UK is a signatory.
They agree the ancient defence of reasonable chastisement allows some parents to go far beyond a loving smack.
David Hinchliffe, chairman of the Commons health select committee, described the torture and murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie as an escalation of discipline and punishment which had started with little slaps.
"Sweden, which has outlawed smacking, has had no deaths at all over the last 10 years at the hands of parents and carers," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"The issue is not just about smacking, the issue is about affording children greater respect."
But the government is worried that changing the law would be an unpopular interference in family life.
Tony Blair's official spokesman said on Tuesday: "Our position is that it's a matter of individual choice for parents and the government believes that most parents accept and understand there is a difference between discipline and abuse.
"It is for the (child protection) agencies to decide how we can deal with cases where that line is crossed but we do not believe criminalising parents is the right way to go on this."
Last year the Scottish Executive was forced to abandon plans to outlaw smacking children under three which were rejected as unworkable.
Robert Whelan, director of the pressure group Family and Youth Concern, said it was "grotesque" that the Climbie case was being used to "try to criminalise parents".
"All parents understand the difference between a little smack given as a means of discipline in a loving and supportive relationship and abuse," he told Today.
He said the Climbie case was the result of the failure of child protection services to implement existing laws and there were no deaths in Sweden because social services were "more efficient" there.
And Conservative shadow health secretary Liam Fox said: "Outlawing smacking would be an outrageous intrusion by the state into parents' legitimate rights and duties.
"There's a whole world of difference between the form of discipline most parents use and the premeditated and persistent cruelty which has come to light in cases such as that of Victoria Climbie."
It was "preposterous and deeply insulting" to draw such parallels, argued Dr Fox.
Meanwhile a survey of 100 MPs by children's charity the NSPCC found support for a ban of some kind.
The survey done by Mori found a ban on hitting children - as recommended by the committees - could get through parliament if put to a free vote.
The survey found that a majority of Labour MPs (55%) surveyed would support a change in the law to protect children from assault - with only one in 17 Labour MPs strongly against.
NSPCC Head of Policy Liz Atkins said: "The view that hitting children is a safe and proper way of disciplining them no longer holds sway.
"Today's inquiry reports on child protection and children's rights should convince any 'neutral' or 'undecided' MPs that it is time to scrap the antiquated defence of reasonable chastisement." Story from BBC NEWS
Published: 2003/06/24 10:51:19 GMT
© BBC MMIII