Not for the first time, the Welsh Labour Party with the full support of Plaid Cymru are trying to push through damaging and dangerous legislation while they think no-one is looking; legislation which will criminalise innocent parents and risk breaking up families, all for the sake of a politically correct Left Wing agenda that will do nothing to benefit working people.
The catchily-titled Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill will have the effect of banning parents from using reasonable force – smacking, to you and me – in disciplining their children.
This will do nothing to prevent child abuse – it is already, quite rightly, illegal to strike a child in such a way that it leaves a bruise or a cut.
All it will do is to leave hundreds of thousands of loving, careful parents at risk of prosecution for bringing up their children in the way that they see right and appropriate. And, of course, give the State a reason to interfere intimately in the family life of anyone it decides it doesn’t like.
The reason for the catchy title is that Section 58 of the Children Act 2004 explicitly allows parents to apply ‘reasonable chastisement’ to their children where they deem it to be appropriate. If a parent is seen to strike a child in a way that doesn’t leave a mark, then so long as the parent can argue that this was done for that reason, they cannot be prosecuted. The Welsh Government’s aim is to negate this section, leaving parents defenceless.
Has this been tried elsewhere?
Sweden was the first country in the world to ban smacking, in 1979. The argument made at the time was that smacking taught children that violence was acceptable, and so banning it would reduce violence both to and by children.
In fact the rate of criminal assaults by children under 15 upon other children in Sweden has increased by 1,791% (i.e over a factor of 17) since 1984 (the earliest date for which figures are available). Over the same period discipline in schools has deteriorated sharply and there has been a striking increase in anxiety disorders among teens.
In New Zealand, one of the very few other countries to have done the same, the law has led directly to the break-up of families with children being taken from their parents, even when convictions under the law have subsequently been overturned.
Not by popular demand
The Welsh Government has not been able to provide a shred of evidence that the proposed law change will bring any benefits. A consultation by them in August 2018 which garnered over 2000 responses showed that two thirds of respondents were against removing the defence. Other polling, carried out by Comres in 2017, has shown that 76% of people in Wales oppose the criminalisation of smacking.
Meanwhile, a report commissioned by the Government from the Wales Centre for Public Policy concluded “there is unlikely to be any research evidence which specifically shows the effects of a light and infrequent smack as being harmful to children”.
And of course, it hardly needs saying that the unintended consequences of the Bill are likely to be far-reaching. Police and social workers are likely to find themselves overwhelmed with cases brought to them as a result of neighbourly feuds or trivial incidents, hampering their ability to deal with cases of real abuse and children at genuine risk.
Close families with caring parents will be victimised; abusive parents with vulnerable children will be far more likely to escape prosecution altogether, lost in the noise.
What can I do?
There are two things that anyone can do to make their views known.
Firstly, please sign the petition at bereasonable.wales.
Secondly, if you have time, please respond to the Welsh Government’s latest consultation document at www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/OPK2EE. This must be done by 5pm on Tuesday 14th May. The bereasonable.wales site has plenty of material making the case against the Government’s plans, but it’s always better to write in your own words.
An Ein Gwlad perspective
This is the sort of stupid nonsense that brings to light everything that is wrong with the way that the Labour Party, and their little helpers in Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats, govern Wales. How do they think that this will create a single job? Help a single person who’s currently on benefits? Or make Wales in any way a better place to live? Would they be doing it at all if they were under any real scrutiny from the Welsh media or from a serious party of opposition.
In Ein Gwlad we have no time for this sort of thing. It’s not our business to tell people how to live their lives or poke our noses into the way that they bring up their children. We see the Welsh Government’s role as being to create the environment for a stable economy, where people can take risks and enjoy the rewards, knowing that we have their backs; an education system that equips children to succeed and walk tall in the world; a health service that people can rely on. Plaid Cymru have long since given up on these aspirations, and the Conservatives are never going to provide the alternative government that Wales so desperately needs. The need for supporters to rally to Ein Gwlad for the good of the nation has never been more urgent.
Stephen is a Physics PhD with a keen interest in economics, having spent his entire career working for various high-technology businesses in Wales and Silicon Valley – including the one he founded himself. He was born in Cardiff, spent his primary school years in Eifionydd and his secondary school years in Welshpool and Wrexham – and his parents hail from Rhuddlan and Llanelli – so he is well acquainted with the country from end to end but considers himself a Wrexham man. He works in the town, while living just over the border in Shropshire with his English wife.