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UK Riots Lead To Rethink In Tory Crime Policy

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DAVID CAMERON
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The prime minister has signalled a major shift in emphasis on crime policy in the wake of the riots which have affected parts of England in the past week.

In an emergency meeting of the House of Commons, David Cameron indicated that the police could be given powers to shut down social networks during times of unrest, and widen officers' remit to compel people to remove face coverings.

"This is a time for our country to pull together," said Cameron, praising those who had taken to the streets to defend their communities from thugs. He also mentioned those who had taken to the streets of Enfield in north London, without criticising what some people have branded vigilantism.

The PM told the Commons that over 1200 people had now been arrested across England in connection with the rioting and looting, and hinted that the courts could be given more but unspecified powers to deal with troublemakers. He said the role of the courts would be "kept under constant review."

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He announced a £20m fund to support high streets shops and £10m for councils' clean up operations, to be paid for by UK Treasury reserves.

In a packed but subdued chamber Mr. Cameron said that social networks could be "used for good or ill", highlighting their apparent role in mobilising organised rioting and looting, particularly during unrest in London.

On the issue of people covering their faces, the PM said at present police could only demand people remove face masks in specific circumstances. He said this would be expanded to include "any circumstances when there is reasonable suspicion of criminality."

The PM also said the government would look at ways in which the Army could provide backup to the police if rioting returned to Britain. However he emphasised that such plans were "not for today nor tomorrow."

MPs listened to the PM in silence, but there were murmurings from Labour when Cameron said CCTV would be a vital tool in bringing criminals to justice. They see this as a further shift in Tory policy, because in opposition the Conservatives had called for CCTV to be curbed. They've been slowly rowing back from that ever since, and it's obvious the PM now believes the cameras to be extremely useful.

The Labour leader Ed Miliband broadly welcomed the measures the PM outlined. Clearly aware that many of the social problems behind the rioting had persisted - and arguably grown - under 13 years of Labour rule, he claimed the current riots "cannot be laid at the door of a single government." But he seized on widespread concerns that budget cuts to the police would hamper their ability to respond to future riots.

David Cameron insisted that even after the budget cuts police would still have the resources to respond to situations similar to those seen in the past week. This prompted jeers from Labour MPs. On the government benches ministers and junior members of the government nodded in support for the Conservative leader, although backbench Tories looked far from convinced.

The PM didn't directly respond to calls by both Ed Miliband and the Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy for an inquiry into the riots. It seems likely if no such inquiry is set up, Labour MPs may begin to wonder why phone hacking warrants two inquiries, but the worst rioting in the UK for decades doesn't deserve even one.

UPDATE: The Commons Home Affairs Committee says it will begin an inquiry into the riots next month. Whether that's enough to satisfy Labour MPs who're calling for a full inquiry is unclear at this stage.

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West Midlands Police have announced that they have arrested 389 people in connection with the riots.

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Peter Hitchens: "People riot because they are wicked, selfish and lawless...we have dismantled every form of authority in society."

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For the next hour Sky News is hosting a debate on the riots, with journalists Peter Hitchens and David Aaronovitch. It could get interesting...

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@ SkyNewsBreak : 186 Metropolitan Police officers reported injured since Saturday

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@ SkyNewsBreak : Metropolitan Police have arrested 950 people so far since starts of the riots, 457 of those have been charged

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The met police have arrested a thug for robbing an injured student during the riots.

He is one of 950 people who have been arrested in connection with violence, disorder and looting by the metropolitan police. A total of 457 people have been charged.

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@ SkyNewsBreak : Met Police: Roughly half of 240 people who have appearedin court so far charged over London riots were under 18

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@ TimGatt : K Clarke tells Sky:"This is worse than 25 yrs ago[...]There are several sections of the population that are much more totally irresponsible"

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Mr Cameron has set himself an enormous task here, effectively pledging to reverse the drift of popular culture in Britain and change the way the country thinks and feels.

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While this continues, Met police have been making more arrests and raided properties - officers in Brixton, south London, recovered clothing and an iPod,

In Pimlico, West London, they found £1,600 in cash and "thousands of pounds worth of Hugo Boss clothing - all still with the labels on."

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“In recent weeks the prison population has reached record highs and prison and probation officers are being increasingly overstretched. It is vital for public safety and for security in our prisons and the youth secure estate that prison and probation staff get the resources and support they need", he said in a statement released on Thursday.

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@ itv_news : 11-year-old girl charged with criminal damage following disturbances in Nottingham has been given a referral order #riots

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The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has today announced a £50 million fund to help make major long term improvements to the capital’s town centres and high streets damaged by the recent disturbances.

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@ frances_skynews : Ian Jones, 36 unemployed pleads guilty to trespass of a building containing a cash machine with 43k in it.

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View UK Riots in a larger map

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@ NigelNelson : Possibly the best, most thoughtful, speech @Ed_Miliband has made since becoming leader. Close study recommended

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Other games will go ahead at the start of the premier league, but start a bit earlier, David Cameron tells MPs.

"Other matches should go ahead but starting earlier on in the day. I think that is a very sensible decision."

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The package of support being announced today includes:

A £10m recovery fund to help councils with the immediate costs of making their areas safe, clear and clean again. This fund can be used, for example, to clear debris left strewn in streets and make immediate repairs to pavements and roads. This Recovery scheme can also be used to support councils who use their powers to offer council tax discounts or council tax relief to those whose homes have been damaged but are still habitable.

A £20m High Street Support Scheme - funded jointly by the Departments for Communities and Local Government, and Business Innovation and Skills, which will be made available immediately, for the streets and areas where businesses were affected by the rioting. The money is intended to finance those measures that will get business trading again and meet short term costs. Councils will distribute the money and could use it to reduce business rates, finance building repairs and encourage customers back to the affected areas.

In addition, seriously damaged homes and business properties will be taken off the respective valuation lists, and Mr Pickles has strongly encouraged the Valuation Office Agency and local authorities to do so as promptly as possible. This removes any liability for council tax or business rates.

Councils have the power to offer rate relief for local firms, but must pay a quarter of the cost; central government automatically pays for three quarters of the cost. This Scheme will help reimburse councils for their costs, to facilitate immediate and real financial help to be given to small and medium firms to rebuild their local businesses. Business rates are typically the third biggest outgoing for firms after rent and staff.

Re-housing funding to meet the immediate costs of emergency accommodation for families who have been made homeless by the disturbances. As these are exceptional circumstances, Mr Pickles has confirmed that his Department would meet these costs under established homelessness funding processes.

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Commenting on the government's measures to help businesses affected by the riots, Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said:

“We welcome these announcements by the government, as they offer practical assistance at what is a terrible time for many businesses across London and the UK. We are also pleased to see that the government recognises the importance of getting businesses back up and running.

"It is important, however, that businesses in affected areas that did not experience any direct damage are able to take advantage of the measures announced today, where they have suffered an indirect impact.

"Ultimately though it will be the enduring spirit of London’s businesses that will see them recover from these appalling events, and ensure that the capital remains the best place in the world to do business.”

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This Government has a clear message to the rioters: your one night of madness could have disastrous consequences for the rest of your lives, and for your entire family. .

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@ nickdebois : RT @stewartgjgreen: @nickdebois asks the P M to get schools to assist with identifying rioters and looters <and a good idea it is>thanks!

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"Further militarisation" won't help, she tells the PM

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@ GregHands : Ed Miliband loved seeing his brother slip up there on "elected chief constables", visibly smiling at the mistake.

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David Cameron: It's about giving police more power.

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@ craigawoodhouse : Michael Gove using ipad on Commons front bench. Wonder if he is re-watching newsnight row with Harman?

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He wants "as many people to be nicked" as possible

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@ TimGatt : How Cameron can control a U.S. based site like Da Twitta, I don't know.

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Reverse police cuts, reverse soft prison plans of current Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.

Cameron is standing firm on this, cites police constables who agree with him in Thames Valley.

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@ SkyNewsBreak : Scotland Yard: 922 people arrested in connection with violence in London since Saturday - 401 suspects charged

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