I don’t regret smacking my children, Blunkett says

By Joe Murphy
Political Editor

DAVID BLUNKETT, the Education Secretary, yesterday admitted that he had smacked his children when they were naughty.

The minister confirmed that he resorted to corporal punishment with each of his three children and said that he had no regrets about it and that it had worked. Mr Blunkett spoke out as he became embroiled in a row with childcare pressure groups which are demanding that the Government makes it illegal for parents and nannies to smack children.

In a move which infuriated the groups, he is pressing ahead with plans to allow childminders to smack children in their care and to smoke in front of them, provided that they have the consent of parents. He told The Telegraph: “I think I probably smacked each of my three children two or three times over the whole of their childhood when I thought it was the only way of getting the message across.”

“It worked at the time,” he added. “It was a last resort on these occasions and I do not believe anyone should smack their children on a regular basis, day in, day out. Smacking as a constant method of control is not effective in the end. However, I do believe that the right to smack in exceptional circumstances is one which should remain with parents and with childcarers who are carrying out the explicit wishes of parents.”

Tony Blair has also confessed to smacking his children when they were younger but, unlike Mr Blunkett, he said he wished he had not done so. The Prime Minister said in an interview in 1997: “I smacked them occasionally if they were really naughty or did something nasty to another child, but I always regretted it because there are lots of ways of disciplining a child and I do not believe belting is the best way. There is a clear dividing line between administering discipline on the one hand and violence on the other.”

Mr Blunkett, who has three sons who are now adults – Alastair, Hugh and Andrew – is standing firm against pressure to ban childminders from using physical punishment because he believes it is the “thin end of the wedge” and that campaigners, if successful, will want to have parents banned from smacking.

He said: “This is one issue where the role of government and the state should not be extended into people’s homes. It should be for parents to decide for themselves.”

Yesterday, he announced the results of an opinion survey commissioned by the Government which showed that 84 per cent of parents believed that they, and not the state, should have the right to choose how they and their childminders disciplined their children. Childcare professionals, however, said his stance was “illogical and inconsistent” because smacking is banned in nurseries and playgroups.

Stephen Burke, director of the Daycare Trust charity, said: “Parents across the country have told us that childcare providers should not smack children in their care. Why does the Government think it’s okay for childminders to smoke or smack children, but at the same time ban smacking and smoking in all other childcare settings?”

Patricia Pritchard, of the Professional Association of Nursery Nurses, dismissed the opinion poll. She said that all it showed was that the Government was “hell-bent” on ignoring the childminding profession. “I don’t imagine any childminder will put this into practice, with or without parents’ consent.”