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CNN Today

British Government Proposes New Guidelines on Spanking Children

Aired January 18, 2000 - 2:07 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The British government today offered parents in the United Kingdom some paternalistic advice on disciplining their children.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Spanking, or what the British call smacking, would still be OK under the government proposal, but striking a child with an object such as a stick or hairbrush would not be.

Harry Smith of ITN has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRY SMITH, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): At this nursery in North London today, there were mixed views among parents as they considered the government's attempts to tighten the laws on smacking. Health Minister John Hutton's consultation document falls short of a total ban on smacking, but suggests outlawing any punishment with a cane or slipper and restricting a parent's right to claim they were using reasonable chastisement, a defense which dates back to the clurion (ph) times. It was that defense which led the European court to rule that English law had not properly protected as boy whose father beat him with a three-foot cane.

JOHN HUTTON, BRITISH HEALTH MINISTER: We accept and respect the rights of parents to discipline their children within the proper framework of the criminal law and we're trying to do that in a way which is not intrusive, and, most importantly, wouldn't criminalize perfectly decent, ordinary parents who are doing a very difficult job.

SMITH: Most parents at this nursery agreed they should be allowed to smack, even though some said they never did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's up to the parents, really. It's individual choice as long as they don't take it to extremes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm not sure that it should be banned, but it's not something that I've ever found particularly useful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don't want him to smack anybody else, so -- but, of course, I don't say, you know, I never do because you're only human, aren't you? SMITH (on camera): The government insists these proposals will protect children against serious assault while maintaining the right of law-abiding parents to decide how they should discipline their children. Not everyone will agree, but the results of the government's own survey, which is also contained in here, suggests these are proposals which will get the backing of the vast majority of parents.

HARRY SMITH, ITN, at the Department of Health.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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