A Government-commissioned survey of 1,800 parents found 67% felt there should not be a complete ban on smacking children. This finding - tempered by the views of 64 children, most of whom thought corporal punishment had no place in modern childhood - prompted the Government to abandon a proposed smacking ban last October.
Why, then, does the Assembly Government want to ban smacking in Wales? The Assembly voted in favour of supporting a smacking ban in January 2004 by 41 votes to nine. But it is not in One Wales, nor is it in the manifestos put forward by Labour and Plaid Cymru in May. Does the Assembly know that Welsh parents hold a different opinion from that surveyed by the UK Government? Or does it have information which disproves the UK Government's assertion that the current law is working?
Or has this idea been chosen as a means to test the boundaries of the current law-making procedure and probe the limits of the maligned LCO system? Neither Whitehall nor Cathays Park know exactly how this new system will work. It will take some prodding by the Assembly Government to discover what exactly it can get from an LCO. If, in the process, ministers have to back down from introducing a smacking ban - something that was never their original intention - then so be it. Who knows, the impression of an overmighty London machine frustrating the will of the Assembly might hasten the arrival of the referendum on primary powers.