WALES' deputy minister for health and social services, Julie Morgan AM, will tell assembly members on Tuesday that smacking is still hitting a child – however people try to define or justify it.

AMs will debate Wales' anti-smacking bill – The Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill – for the first time on Tuesday since its introduction in March.

The bill has received widespread support from children's charities and services, but campaigners who oppose the bill said putting parents "in the dock" for a light smack was a "massively disproportionate" punishment.

If the bill is passed and becomes law, parents and guardians will no longer be able to physically punish children.

“There is no reason to ever hit a child”, Ms Morgan said, adding: "People have justified smacking because they were hit as a child. But what may have been deemed as appropriate in the past is no longer acceptable.

"Our children deserve to be treated with the same respect and dignity as adults. As a government we want to give children in Wales the same level of protection from physical punishment as adults."

Tuesday's assembly debate concludes the first stage of bringing the bill into law.

So far, the bill has been backed by a variety of organisations including the police, local authorities, children’s services, and health services; as well as children’s charities like the NSPCC, Barnardo’s Cymru, Save the Children, Action for Children and Children in Wales.

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has also welcomed its introduction.

But the Be Reasonable campaign group, which opposes a smacking ban, said the Welsh Assembly's Children, Young People & Education Committee "raises serious questions about the bill".

That committee produced a report in August outlining a series of recommendations for the bill.

One of those recommendations was that the Welsh Government, as a priority, divert smacking cases away from the criminal justice system "where appropriate and proportionate to do so".

"Such diversionary schemes should focus on encouraging and supporting parents rather than penalising them," the commitee added.

Jamie Gillies, a spokesman for the Be Reasonable campaign, said: “AMs are being asked to back a change in the law that could land their own constituents in the dock for using a light smack. The vast majority of adults in Wales see that as massively disproportionate."

He added: “If AMs want to avoid good parents being criminalised, if they want to prevent frontline services being overwhelmed, they must reject this bill tomorrow.

"The current law strongly upholds the rights of children and prevents violence and abuse. It remains the most effective and sensible approach to child protection going forward.”