Last updated at 22:00pm on 26th November 2006
The children's tsar is spearheading a bid to ban parents from smacking on the grounds that it breaches human rights laws. Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green is concerned that even the mildest of smacks infringes children's rights to dignity.
He is attempting to overturn current laws which allow gentle smacking as long as it doesn't leave a bruise or swelling.
In a separate initiative with the same aim, more than 170 MPs from across the political spectrum have signed a Commons motion calling for all smacking to be classed as assault.
A previous anti-smacking campaign in the run-up to 2004's Children's Act succeeded in securing curbs on parents which mean that hitting youngsters hard enough to leave a mark can result in jail terms of up to five years.
But Downing Street stopped short of supporting a complete ban on smacking, arguing that parents could end up before a judge for light slaps.
However the Prime Minister suffered a rebellion by 47 Labour MPs who wanted an outright ban.
More than 170 MPs from all parties have already signed an early day motion - used by MPs to draw attention to a controversial subject - which claims the UK is breaching human rights legislation in continuing to allow a "reasonable chastisement" defence.
Now Sir Al is calling for current laws to be repealed and is drawing up a dossier of evidence that they fail to protect vulnerable children from harm.
His campaign, backed by the Children's Commissioners in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, will fuel the raging debate over corporal punishment and pile pressure on the Government to rethink the issue.
But critics see an outright smacking ban as an unwarranted intrusion into family life.
"There are many things parents do to and for their children every day that would be quite inappropriate, if not illegal, if they were to do them to anybody else" said Norman Wells, director of parent-support group The Family Education Trust.
Supporters of parents' rights to smack claim it can be a quick and effective form of discipline.
But Sir Al sees smacking as no different from common assault, which is a crime against adults but not children.
"Violence, including corporal punishment, is not acceptable," he said.
"The Children's Commissioner is now calling on the Government to repeal section 58 of the Children's Act 2004, which providers parents with an automatic defence to acts of common assault against their children.
"This is an essential step to bring about a much-needed shift in attitudes on the use of physical force against children and young people.
"Children and young people in England should have the same right to protection under the law on common assault as that afforded to adults.
"Treating children and young people differently under the law contravenes their rights to human dignity, physical integrity and equal treatment."
Northern Ireland's children tsar has mounted a High Court challenge to laws which state that parents can smack as long as their action does not leave a mark.
The laws are already in force in England and Wales but Barney McNeany is fighting their introduction in the province. Judges are due to decide the case early next year, in a ruling that could force the Government to change its position.
Tony Blair admitted in a TV interview earlier this year that he smacked his older three children but not Leo, his youngest.
Source: Daily Mail