Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has defended parents' right to smack their children and admitted he did it to his own, it emerged tonight.
The Tory cabinet minister said he was not opposed to smacking youngsters, claiming sometimes it "sends a message".
Grayling has two children, aged 20 and 16, with his wife Susan and told the Mail on Sunday he occasionally smacked them when they were younger.
"You chastise children when they are bad, as my parents did me," he said. "I'm not opposed to smacking. It is to be used occasionally. Sometimes it sends a message - but I don't hanker for the days when children were severely beaten at school."
Sources close to the minister said on Saturday night he used the punishment on an "occasional" basis and only when "really warranted".
Grayling also reiterated commitments he made soon after taking up post to ban perks for prisoners like Sky television as well as ending automatic early release for inmates who misbehave during their sentence.
He told the Mail on Sunday: "I want prisons to be spartan, but humane, a place people don't have a particular desire to come back to."
He also said he would not tolerate gay couples in prison sharing a cell. "It is not acceptable to allow same-sex couples to effectively move in together and live a domestic life," he said. "If such a thing happened, I would want those prisoners put in separate prisons."