Gwent AM's bid for a smacking ban fails in the Assembly

6:45pm Tuesday 11th February 2014

By David Deans - Politics reporter

A BID to ban smacking in Wales failed tonight despite passionate and personal speeches in the Assembly.

The move wasn't supported by the Welsh Government but deputy minister for social services Gwenda Thomas indicated it could return to the Assembly before 2016.

After a heated debate AMs voted 14 for and 39 against, with one abstention, for a change proposed by Gwent AM Lindsay Whittle to the Social Services and Well-being Bill.

The amendment would have changed the Children Act, effectively banned smacking in Wales, but there was concern at the law being introduced without consultation.

South Wales East Plaid AM Lindsay Whittle, who proposed the amendment, said: “It’s time to deliver a clear and unambiguous message that hitting children is wrong."

At one point he held up a picture of his 14-months-old grand-daughter. He said: “When do you start hitting that baby? Well, never!”

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams gave an emotional speech about her experiences in her own family.

“My mother was a very loving and determined parent,” she said.

“She wanted the best for me, but what started off as a smack turned into something that I would regard as a lot more serious.”

She also admitted that she has smacked her own children, but said it was a reflection of her behaviour rather than theirs.

However the Conservatives’ Darren Millar said physical chastisement can be an effective and useful tool for disciplining children.

His party colleague Antoinette Sandbach suggested the amendment could see children taken off their parents.

There was backing from the Labour backbenches for a smacking ban, but Julie Morgan suggested she wouldn't back the amendment if there will be a better chance to vote for it.

Labour's Christine Chapman warned that if she wasn't satisfied by what the deputy minister says she would vote against her government.

The Welsh Government's Gwenda Thomas called on AMs to reject the amendment, saying a consultation on the bill hadn’t looked at the issue.

She warned the UK Government has previously said it was not in the Assembly’s powers, raising the possibility it could be referred to the Supreme Court and delaying the whole bill as a result.

But she said: “There will be opportunities to examine this issue in forthcoming legislation in this Assembly term.”

In 2011 the Assembly's members had voted for a motion calling for a ban - the Welsh Government said at the time that no such law would be introduced within the Assembly term.

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