Parliament is to be recalled from recess due to rioting across the country, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced. The PM has also ordered a massive rise in the number of police officers on the streets of Britain -- there will be 16,000 police officers patrolling London tonight. Speaking outside Number 10 Downing Street, Cameron pledged 'more robust action' to deal with the rising sense of lawlessness across Britain.
London has suffered a third consecutive night of widespread violence and looting, while similar scenes in Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol have resulted in dozens of arrests.
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Groups of youths attacked shops and started fires in Peckham, Croydon, Lewisham and Hackney and several other areas, while emergency services struggled to cope.
There were incidents of looting and violence on Woolwich High Street, where a police car was said to have been burned.
Ealing was also targeted, with cars attacked and a Tesco shop plundered. It was reported that looters in Ealing attempted to break in to a Bang & Olufsen shop.
Camden also saw running battles between police and rioters throughout the early hours.
The Prime Minister said: "These are sickening scenes, scenes of people looting, vandalising, robbing... and even attacking fire crews as they are trying to put out fires.
"I feel huge sympathy for the families who've suffered, innocent people who've been burned out of their houses. I also feel for all those who live in fear. People should be in no doubt that we are on the side of law-abiding people who are appalled at what has happened in their own communities.
"We need even more police on our streets and we need even more robust police action."
He told the rioters, "You are not only wrecking the lives of others, you are potentially wrecking your own life too."
Cameron has returned from holiday in order to chair an emergency committee meeting in Downing Street. The crisis meeting, known as COBRA, was briefed on the riots by the acting commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Tim Godwin. Both David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will attend.
The Prime Minister had previously refused to return to the UK, but justified his change of mind due to the increasing severity of the situation. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, was also away but returned on Monday afternoon.
Labour leader Ed Miliband welcomed Cameron's decision to return. "It is right that the prime minister is chairing Cobra. We need a co-ordinated response to ensure public safety and help those people who have lost homes and businesses."
Nick Clegg has defended the Government's response to the weekend's rioting in London against criticism that senior ministers were absent from the capital. The Deputy Prime Minister said "I reject completely this notion that somehow this government hasn't been functioning very effectively.
We have arranged things to make sure that this government works effectively on all the issues of the day. We are in constant contact with each other and we are working as effectively this week as we do in every other week of the year."
Several MPs have been urging the Government to impose stronger police action to deal with the unrest. Labour MP Diane Abbott has suggested that a curfew could be considered in parts of the inner city, whilst Conservative MP Patrick Mercer and former London Mayor Ken Livingstone called for the use of water cannon.
Mercer said: “I find it strange that we are willing to use these sort of measures against the Irish yet when Englishmen step out of line and behave in this atrocious and appalling way, we are happy to mollycoddle them,” he said. “If the police want cannon then they should be allowed to use them. I have used water cannon myself and I found them extremely effective.”
Some politicians went even further. Conservative MEP Roger Helmer tweeted: "Memo to COBRA: Time to get tough. Bring in the Army. Shoot looters and arsonists on sight." Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, also called for the army to be brought in to provide "logistical support" for emergency workers.
Theresa May played down the likelihood of introducing new police powers, although she refused to rule them out. "The British model of policing has been different [from that used in other parts of Europe]. It has been based on consent with local communities," she said. However, May insisted that ministers would be listening to advice from the police on what they considered necessary in order to keep order in the capital.