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Corporal punishment: Labour MP condones smacking of children

A senior Labour politician has raised the controversial issue of smacking children, saying it is both necessary and right.

David Lammy, MP for Tottenham has been criticised for suggesting that working class parents need the ability to discipline their children at home without fear of prosecution.

Mr Lammy had caused controversy by suggesting that last summer's riots were caused by parents' inability to smack their children when disciplining them.

He later rescinded the comments, saying that the riots were not caused by the anti-smacking laws, but added that he thought the issue did need to be discussed. Mr Lammy denies that condoning smacking amounted to supporting physical abuse or abuse against children.

"It is up to parents to determine the way they want to help their children navigate boundaries and how they define right and wrong, it is not for the state to define that for them," said Mr Lammy.

"The state is not there on the 15th floor of a tower block, where there may be drug dealers and violence and families may be struggling," he added.

The debate has attracted some comment from across the political spectrum. London Mayor Boris Johnson spoke on the issue, saying that parents should more often than not be given the benefit of the doubt.

"People do feel anxious about imposing discipline on their children, whether the law will support them," Mr Johnson told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"I think there ought to be some confirmation that the benefit of the doubt will always be given to parents in these matters and they should be seen as the natural figures of authority in this respect," said the Mayor.

Prior to 2004 parents were able to use 'reasonable chastisement' when disciplining their children. However, the Children Act has changed this, and now specifies that parents are only allowed to smack their children if they do not cause a reddening of the skin. Social workers must then decide if parents have overstepped the mark.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

Are parents allowed to smack their children? (FindLaw)

Find local family solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)