PM faces new rebellion on smacking

2 November 2004

Tony Blair is facing a second Commons revolt in 24 hours, as Labour MPs prepare to vote for a smacking ban.

The Prime Minister has resisted backbench calls to outlaw all physical punishment of children, and has met potential rebels in a bid to prevent fresh unrest when MPs vote on the Children's Bill.

Despite pledges to re-examine the issue "in the near future", MP Hilton Dawson said Mr Blair had not done enough to prevent a second revolt over smacking today.

The Government has accepted the so-called Lester amendment inserted by the Liberal Democrat peer.

It gives parents a defence of "reasonable chastisement" if charged with assault on their children as a result of smacking, providing the punishment was reasonable.

The defence would not be available for more serious offences of hitting youngsters.

However Mr Dawson, Labour MP for Lancaster and Wyre, said: "The measures reinforce what is an inefficient and harmful way to discipline children."

Despite pleas for a free vote, Labour MPs are subject to a three-line whip, leaving them open to disciplinary measures if they fail to support Children's Minister Margaret Hodge.

However, Mr Dawson said: "I really do hope Parliamentarians come out and vote that down.

"Hopefully we will get a good rebellion. I don't think we will get enough to overturn the Government, but we will have a lot of people voting with their consciences."