Members of Parliament who spoke for abolition, 1998
Robert Key, Conservative

It is turning the argument on its head to say that we must keep the cane in order to impose discipline and see an end to violence. I fear that many of my hon. Friends wish to perpetuate a system which 40 years on they claim did them no harm and which many of them preferred as a punishment in their young days. Of course they preferred it: it was far easier and more acceptable than other sanctions which they might have had inflicted on them. It was much preferable to loss of privileges, loss of status and loss of time at school. Indeed, it would have added to their status as heroes against authority. The sensitive ones among my hon. Friends - probably at their public schools - were humiliated. The tougher ones were beaten again and again, to the enhancement of their "Rambo" reputations.

Ever since judicial flogging was outlawed in Britain in 1948, the evidence has been growing, and is now irrefutable, that corporal punishment is counter-productive because it breeds hostility and resentment and legitimizes violence at a time when we are urgently try to reduce violence in society.

The quality of human relationships which develop in school when the cane is not just put in the cupboard but snapped and burned and the advance that one sees in those schools are so great that those things alone would be enough to convince me that we should abolish the cane.

The campaign to persuade Parliament to end corporal punishment to schools began in 1669 with the Children's Petition, which suggests that a teacher who "is not able to awe and keep a company of youth in obedience without violence and stripes should judge himself no more fit for that function."

Times have not changed in that respect. Beating is a dangerous form of punishment, which is not even successful as a means of discipline. We have seen that corporal punishment is counter-productive. Schools which use the cane have the worst classroom misbehavior, the highest juvenile delinquency, the most vandalism and at he worst attendance rates. The cane breeds resentment and fosters hostile teacher-pupil relationships ant a negative and antagonistic atmosphere in schools..

None of the education authorities that banned corporal punishment has been forced to reintroduce it. The practical experience of doing without it in Britain and overseas makes it clear that corporal punishment is not only undesirable, but unnecessary.

Giles Radice, Labour

We in the "Labour " party believe that corporal punishment is barbaric, inhumane, degrading both to the chastiser and the chastised, and, by its nature, open to abuse. Anyone who has doubts about whether it is open to abuse should glance at page 5 of The London Standard of tonight.

In my view, that picture says far more than all the statistics, but the statistics are bad enough. There are 200,000 officially recorded instances of corporal punishment each year. Some schools have recorded hundreds of instances each year, and in a few schools the same children receive corporal punishment again and again. Unfortunately, cases of abuse are far too frequent , and they include girls and pupils who are physically and mentally handicapped. The fact is that the use of force - which outside the classroom is defined as battery - is inherently dangerous and open to abuse. It is no wonder that corporal punishment has be abolished in every other European country and that the movement in most advanced countries, except South Africa, is towards abolition.

Graham Bright, Conservative

It is by no means clear where the borderline between reasonable and moderate lies. Beating a child with a stick cannot possibly be considered to be moderate or reasonable. It is violent. All too often teachers step across that borderline, with disastrous results. Indeed, that is clearly illustrated in a picture in this evening's London Standard. Innumerable similar cases can be reported. They are not isolated instances. A youngster of eight had his finger twisted for the rest of his life because of caning. A youngster of 11 had his finger broken because of caning. A youngster of nine had bleeding hands because he was caned merely for bad work and nothing worse. I would not vote in favor of corporal punishment if I thought that one of those instances would happen, let alone the whole list that can be produced.

Douglas Hogg, Conservative

The decision of the European Court has made it clear that unless we respect what are called the philosophical views of parents, we are in breach of the convention. That leaves us with two choices. Either we have a policy of complete abolition as contained in the Bill or we have a system designed to enable parents to elect that their children should not be punished in that way.

The Education (Corporal Punishment) Bill 1985 was an attempt to enable parents to opt their children out of punishment. I served on the Standing Committee on that Bill and with the greatest respect to the then Secretary of State. I believe that it was nonsense. There cannot be two classes of punishment in one school. I conclude, therefore, that to discharge what is a duty to the convention, the treaty and the accord, we must pursue a policy of total abolition.

Return to Table of Contents