An urgent inquiry into whether religious teachers should be able to smack their pupils has been ordered by the Government after lobbying by Keighley MP Ann Cryer.

Under existing law, teachers at state and private schools are banned from smacking children but their counterparts in faith schools are not.

Mrs Cryer wants the loophole closed to avoid any more incidents around the country following an alleged situation six years ago where children were being mistreated at a madrassa.

She said: “We have to do something to protect all children.

“About six years ago a teacher came to me and said he believed children were being hurt and I got West Yorkshire Police involved and I had had a number of complaints about that school and the treatment of children.

“Parents denied they knew anything about it and said if a child was disciplined it was ‘reasonable force’.

“Many of the children being punished had special needs and this was not understood. So if the children were not learning their Koranic verses quickly enough, they were deemed naughty.”

The loophole in the law means teachers who are with their pupils for fewer than 12.5 hours a week have the same status as someone standing in for a parent and therefore can give the child a smack and plead the defence of reasonable punishment.

In a letter to Mrs Cryer, Children’s Secretary Ed Balls said: “The important point to make is that there is not one rule for a child in a madrassa and another for a child in any other circumstance.”

Keighley Central Labour councillor Khadim Hussain said he was not aware of any physical punishment going on in any of Keighley’s mosques. He said: “There has been an issue about punishment by teachers in mosques in the past but a lot of work has been done in the area since.

“A lot of awareness has been created and, in fact, Education Bradford says there are 65 madrassas that have been trained on the child protection policy.”

Yousaf Aftab, regional youth leader for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, said that his religious sect taught reformation and was against physical punishment. He said: “I have known people as I was growing up from other Muslim sects who have said they used to get rapped with a bamboo stick or shoot but that was a few years ago. It might still happen, I don’t know.”