Nadhim Zahawi says parents should be trusted on whether to smack children


The education secretary has rejected calls for a ban on smacking children in England, as he argued that the state should not be “nannying” parents and revealed that his wife had occasionally given their child a “light smack on the arm”.

Nadhim Zahawi said his “very strong view” was that parents should be trusted to discipline their children correctly and added it was “much better to sit down and communicate with your child” and “discuss what positive behaviour looks like”.

The children’s commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, earlier called for the so-called “smacking ban” introduced two years ago in some UK nations to be extended further.

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.

Critics of the law change have said it will criminalise parents, but the Welsh government insisted the move was about protecting children’s rights.

Scotland introduced a ban in November 2020.

Pressed on whether England should follow suit, Zahawi told Times Radio: “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.

“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 added: “I’ve got a young child, I’ve got a nine-year-old, and I don’t think I’ve ever smacked her but I think her mother, on occasion has felt a need for a light smack on the arm, if she’s completely naughty and misbehaving – but even when that happens, it has to be on a very, very rare occasion.

“And not something that we would certainly, as parents, want to do very often. It’s much better to sit down and communicate with your child and discuss behaviour and discuss what positive behaviour looks like. And that’s how we choose to do this in the Zahawi household.”

De Souza said she abhored violence of any kind against children and added: “Because children are more vulnerable than adults, I think we do need to ensure that their rights are supported.”

Although de Souza acknowledged that “protections” for children are already “enshrined in law” in England, she expressed admiration for the actions of the Scottish and Welsh governments, adding: “It’s certainly something that I think we should consider.”

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, previously said the move should be mirrored in England and Northern Ireland, calling it “the right thing” to do.

Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said polls showed the majority of parents would support the move, and added that children should have equal protection under the law against assault. I think we should move on and I’m disappointed to hear that from the education secretary.

“We know we have a crisis of child abuse, and if we are going to stop violence against children violence against women of violence against girls, we have to draw a line in the sand it’s time to move on it’s time to get into the real world.”

A survey commissioned by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found more than two-thirds of adults in England believe it is wrong for parents or carers to physically punish their child, with 58% thinking it was already illegal.

More than 60 nations worldwide have legislated against the physical punishment of children.

Source: The Guardian