§ Sir Keith Joseph
As a party to the European Convention on Human Rights since 1951 the Government are bound by the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in any case under the convention to which they are a party. In the Campbell and Cosans case the court decided that where a parent holds a philosophical conviction against corporal punishment at school this must be respected by the state. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I intend to give effect to the court's judgment in England and Wales proposing in due course legislation which will grant to parents who hold a conviction against corporal punishment the right to have their children exempted from corporal punishment in maintained schools. We believe that parents will exercise this right responsibly.
We are concerned to allow schools the maximum freedom, consistent with such a right of exemption, to employ for the maintenance of discipline such sanctions, including corporal punishment, as they judge to be appropriate. We also wish to maintain the tradition under which teachers act in loco parentis and concern themselves with the personal and social development of pupils; and to preserve the balance of responsibilities, in relation to school discipline, between LEAs, governors and head teachers.
There are several possible ways in which these objectives might be met. In order to develop a detailed scheme which can be embodied in legislation, my right hon. Friend and I will consult widely on the practical issues involved. We have today published a consultation document with a request for comments by 30 November 1983. Copies are available in the Vote Office. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will be issuing a similar document.
When these consultations have been completed we intend to make a further report to the House.