Parliament riots debate as-it-happened
Follow every minute of today's emergency parliamentary debate on the riots with politics.co.uk.
By Ian Dunt Follow @IanDunt and Alex Stevenson
09:36 – Morning. Well, we weren't expecting to see you so early, and doubtless you weren't expecting to see us either, but here we are, suddenly recalled in the middle of summer. Parliament has rather an odd atmosphere to it. The 'secret' entrance in Westminster tube has been closed off leaving workers to come in through the front gates. I presume this is one of the lock-down security measures. They also searched my bag as I came in, although I'm embarrassed to admit there was nothing illegal or morally questionable inside. It's only a Thursday after all. We kick off with David Cameron on the riots at 11:30 BST, followed by George Osborne and then Theresa May.
09:54 – Well it was a quiet night last night. The only police report of events actually taking place yesterday evening concerns a man arrested outside Enfield police station at around 21:45 BST "for possession of two knuckle dusters". He's still in custody. Most other reports concerned arrests from the previous nights' disturbances. The Met says it has now arrested a total of 888 people in connection with violence, disorder and looting. 371 people have been charged. There's an interesting line in the statement from deputy assistant commissioner Steve Kavanagh, where he suggests police are using the momentum of manpower and political will to take care of a few bad apples they've had their eye on for a while. "With so many officers on duty we want to use their time by going out there and arresting burglars, robbers and thieves – those people who cause concern and crime in our communities. Some of those warrants are also directly linked to Operation Withern's ongoing investigation." Note that fact that SOME of the warrants are ALSO linked to Withern, the riot operation.
10:11 – I'm not in the habit of sheparding people away from the site, but you should read this piece by Paul Lewis, Matthew Taylor and Mustafa Khalili over at the Guardian, as they describe the meeting of Muslims and Sikhs in Birnmingham last night as they debated how to respond to the deaths of three men protecting their community the evening beforehand. It's important, fascinating and optimistic stuff.
10:14 – We have a fairly good idea of what Cameron will be saying at the debate today. His analysis of the situation was outlined outside Downing Street yesterday. "It is all too clear we have a big problem with gangs in our country," he said. "There has been a lack of focus on the complete lack of respect shown by these thugs. There are pockets of our society that are frankly not just broken but also sick. The sight of those young people running down streets, looting, laughing as they go, is a complete lack of responsibility – a lack of proper parenting, proper upbringing, proper ethics, proper morals – that is what we need to change."
10:17 – 'Lack of responsibility' strikes me as an effect rather than the cause of the phenomenon so this line of argument seems more descriptive than explanatory. Beyond that, I argued yesterday that Cameron had actually handled the crisis in a firm but moderate manner. You can read that piece, which most people disagree with, here. Cameron said he'd authorise water cannon use on 24-hour notice, a decision which, while it seems much less likely this morning, still irritated some people. You can read Green campaigner Jonathan Bartley argue (convincingly) against it here. If you want some general reading on how the riots have affected the main political players check out Dr Matthew Ashton's contribution here. On that note, ALex Stevenson urges politicans to tread carefully when addressing the issues around rioting here. If you watched the Harman/Gove exchange on Newsnight on Tuesday you'll know what he wants to avoid. Meanwhile if you want to remind yourself of the terror and shock of Monday night, you can read my piece, jotted down after returning home from reporting it, here.
10:29 – The Labour position is more complicated. Judging by Ed Miliband's explanation yesterday, he plans to stay well away from the 'caused by cuts' argument. The trap you can fall into here is exemplified by that Harman/Gove debate, which I'll paste below. The internet was divided between people supporting Harman and Gove, but both of them come out of it very badly indeed, in my opinion. Instead, Labour's cuts attack is focussed exclusively on police numbers, which is hardly that radical or unfair, an idea given the events of the last few days. More on that in a moment.
10:40 – Harman took a different line this morning, focusing exclusively on police cuts. Here's the comment: "At our meeting with the Home Office, James Brokenshire [Home Office minister] made clear that the Tory-led government is adamantly refusing to think again about the cuts to the police budget in London. Labour has been strongly opposed to cuts in police numbers in London. We had hoped that in light of the riots they would reconsider their cuts and we are bitterly disappointed that in spite of the evidence of the importance of police numbers in the last week they are refusing to reconsider these cuts." Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, who has a habit of getting extremely excited whenever she talks about the police, was rather more vitriolic. "It is staggering and utterly shameful if it has taken these appalling events for ministers to start waking up to what everyone else has known all along," she said. "More police on the streets makes them safer and not only at times like this. Cutting 16,000 officers – the equivalent of every officer on the streets of London last night – at a time like this is deeply irresponsible." I'd expect the Harman tone to dominate rather than that of Cooper. The emphasis today will be on parliamentary unity and cross-party consensus, so the country can feel there is firm leadership. There'd be nothing worse than party-political bickering today, and it's very unlikely to happen.
10:58 – Where there's less likely to be political agreement is on the economy, where Osborne will invariably tell MPs that recent volatility in the Eurozone and the downgrading of the US' credit rating show what would have happened if Britain hadn't adopted a tough response to the deficit. Ed Balls is unlikely to agree with that, especially in the light of reduced growth forecasts, a stagnant economy and no promising signs ahead. With so much cross-party cooperation going on elsewhere, MPs will enjoy stabbing each other a little bit before going back into the riots debate again afterwards. Ball's wife, Cooper, will sneak in some police cuts messaging there somewhere but don't expect her to get as het up as her husband. I wonder what those two are like when they have a barney at home. Insufferable, I imagine. I'm going to get some food and coffee. I'll be back with you at
ready for the debate.
11:25 – John Bercow calls order and we're off.
11:30 – And we're off again. MPs are currently praying (I know) but we'll be off in a tic. My colleague, Alex Stevenson, has just popped into the chamber now.
11:33 – It looks like the Tottenham vs Everton gameon Saturday has been called off. Predictable but dispiriting. All other Premier League games are expected to go ahead.
11:36 – "When there are important events in our country it is important parliament is recalled and we show a united front," Cameron starts. MPs look depressingly healthy, most of them sporting tans. Cameron recites the details of the last few days – attacks on shops, robberies, fire crews abused and three people being run over and killed in Birmingham. "We will not put up with this in our country," he says.
11:38 – Cameron runs through the timeline, from the Duggan killing to the riots. "It is completely wrong to suggest there is any justifiable causal link," Cameron says. He praises the police and says they deserve our support and our thanks. Earlier this week there were far too few and their tactics weren't working. He says police have been honest about this. It's a new and unique challenge – not public disorder, but crime. Fair analysis.
11:40 – Cameron now moves in to what was decided in the Cobra meeting. Police numbers were hugely increased and will remain at that level through the weekend. Leave has been cancelled, officers have been sent to areas of greatest need. CCTV means even those who haven't yet been arrested will be. He repeats his line about "phoney human rights laws" not getting in the way of using the images. Big cheer from the benches behind him for that one.
11:41 – Nothing is off the table, Cameron says. Police can use baton rounds and contingency plans for water cannon are in place. On the use of the army, Cameron says the police chief would rather be the last man in Scotland Yard before he asked for army use. Cameron says that's sensible, but its his duty to look at all the options. Ominous. Now he moves on to social media and says they've looked at use of the tools to stop people organising. Cameron says he will give police discretion to police to ask people to remove face masks under any circumstances when they are suspected of criminal activity. Big cheer. That's a serious change. "There will be no complacency," Cameron insists. "The fight back has begun," he adds.
11:44 – Cameron says he will help shops and homes repair the damage and get up and running again. Anyone who had damage can seek compensation even if uninsured under the Riot Act. They're extending the period from 14 to 42 days. He expects £200 million to be paid out in insurance. To minimise costs the government will enable business rate relief. For houses and business hit hardest the valuation office will immediately stop liability for council tax and business rates. He will weed out unnecessary planning laws stopping the use of metal shutters.
11:46 – "Crime has a context," Cameron says, "and we must not shy away from it. This is not about poverty, this is about culture." Cameron says. Firm right-wing line there. "The potential consequences of neglect and immorality on this scale have been clear for too wrong." He mentions disruptive families, a strong criminal justice system, welfare that encourages work and school discipline. He talks of street gangs. "They have blighted life on their estates," he goes on. He says there's evidence they coordinated attacks on police. He will look at Scottish and US records into beating gangs. He will use gang injunctions for children and adults across the country. He also wants to learn lessons from New York and Los Angeles.
11:50 – Cameron praises the post-riot cleaners, the defence groups in Enfield and Birmingham. He praises "law abiding people who play by the rules" He adds: "We will protect you. We are on your side." To the criminals: "We will track you down, we will find you and we will punish you. You will pay for what you've done. We will show the world we will address our broken society. A year away from the Olympics, we need to show them the Britain which does not destroy but builds." Slightly underwhelming statement from Cameron, but solid support in the House. Miliband is up.
11:52 – Miliband says "this behaviour has disgusted us all". He is very cross party, as expected. He says the father of the Asian man killed in Birmingham who has been on the news is the "true face of Britain". A degree of order has been re-established. "We know what the public want and are entitled to – a return to normality, not order." We shouldn't have to go home early or shut shops due to fear. "They have a right to expect it and we have a responsibility to make it happen." Parliament has to discuss how we got here and what it says about Britain. He asks about the use of the army – how would he envisage that happening? Will police numbers stay high after the weekend?
11:55 – In a mild and non-hostile way, Miliband asks Cameron to think again on police cuts. Cameron's statement just arrived in full. I'll get it up soon as I get a chance. Miliband says magistrates should have circumstance at the front of their mind when sentencing. Miliband says CCTV has been important and will Cameron look again at his CCTV proposals. Miliband attacking exclusively from the right at the moment, but will he accept Cameron's argument that this has nothing to do with poverty? Sadiq Khan looks frankly bored. Yvette Cooper looks empty inside. "To seek to explain does not seek to excuse," Miliband says. We must ask why people feel they have nothing to lose. "We cannot afford to let this pass only to find ourselves in this position in the future. The causes are complex. We can only tackle these solutions by hearing from our communities," he says. "[The public] want us to listen to them and before saying we know the answers we should all do so." He wants a system so those in areas affected can hear the public's view. He wants an inquiry, one that listens to those affected. That's an excellent and sensible response, even if it is – yawn – another inquiry. We've got them coming out our ears at the moment. Miliband backs Cameron's agenda on gang culture.
11:59 – "They are a generation worried about their prospects and we cannot afford to fail them. They should be able to do better, that is the promise of Britain that they have a right to expect." He finishes: "We all bear a share of responsibility. It is right we came back to debate these issues. We cannot afford to move on and forget. For all the people who have lived in fear we owe a duty to ensure no repeat of what we have seen. We on our side will play our part in making it happen."
12:01 – I thought that was good from Miliband although he went on a bit. Cameron thanks him in a manner that doesn't seem so far away from genuine. On the army:"None of us want to see a break away from the great British model of policing but governments have a duty to look ahead to contingencies and that is what Cobra has done." It would have looked like guarding to free up police for operations. "This is not for today or even tomorrow" but for the future. Interesting.
12:03 – On police budgets. Cameron says over the next few years there should be cash deductions. It's "totally achievable" without frontline cuts. Groans in the Commons. Party politics rears its head. Cameron promises that at the end of the police budget process we would still be able to have this many police on the street. On CCTV, Cameron says he supports it but want to regulate it. He admits it's been very valuable in police control rooms. On deeper lessons, Cameron says its right that explaining isn't excusing. He hopes that when we discuss it we don't just talk about money (i.e: Blaming it on cuts). Cameron says they both mentioned the responsibility – "people are responsible for their actions". That's a simplification of what Miliband said. He brushes past Miliband's call for an inquiry by saying that it should be left to the home affairs committee. That's not what Miliband requested and it falls far short. While Cameron's tone was conciliatory, he misrepresented Miliband's 'deeper causes' argument, warned him against requiring funding and then slapped away his call for a public inquiry. So the meat there was considerably less collegiate than it sounded.
12:07 – The floor opens to MPs. The Commons is full. This is going to take quite some time. David Lammy, Tottenham MP, is first. His constituents wanted to know "where were the police". He wants the PM to go to Tottenham to speak to the victims. Cameron will be wary of that. Lammy also calls for the public inquiry into why initial skirmishes broke into riot. Cameron says he'll take up the offer. In terms of the inquiry, he wants to start with the home affairs committee and go from there. He's certainly not ruling it out but he's clearly reluctant.
12:11 – Former home secretary Jack Straw accuses Cameron of repeating treasury lines on police numbers "sounds very complacent". In his fuddly old man way, Straw is giving it to him as hard as he can get away with. He wants more prison places too. Straw, if you remember, tried to build massive supermax prisons, against all advice from rehabilitation experts. Cameron says the surge of police numbers shows that police will be fine. Former foreign secretary Sir Malcom Rifkind is concerned that police were instructed to stand and observe rioting and looting. He blames this on the reaction to the death of Ian Tomlinson. Foolish point, which Cameron, of course, says is a good point.
12:17 – Here's Cameron's COmmons statement in full . Gerald Kaufman (Lab, video game bad guy) asks if we regard the rioters as reclaimable to society or will we have positive polcies. "We must never write people off," Cameron says. But he says we need earlier interventions (Graham Allen's agenda might get some more support here)> Nadine Dorries, who is despise with ferocity on the left, says if this happened elsewhere there would have been water cannons. We need less than 24-hours notice. This isn't about police numbers, it's about tools. Water cannons, by the way, are not a good tool for this sort of situation, because its a small mobile crowd, not a large one, that they were dealing with. After all, dispersal – the goal of water cannon – was actually the problem in the riots. Cameron makes basically that same point.
12:22 – The important thing about the police cuts debate is neither Cameron's argument or Labour's groans. It's the total silence on the Conservative benches. They are not with their leader on this one. Oh, David Miliband. He asks why Cameron wants to get rid of all chief constables and make them stand for election. David Miliband was as outright in his party political attack as anyone. Angie Bray (Con, hair like hay) talks on sentencing, which is pointless if you know anything about the constitution, or if you've been following how harsh magistrates have been on those they've seen so far. The longer Commons debates go on, the more posturing you get. We're skipping into that period now. Unfortunately, any MP who was sat down at the start of the debate can ask a question and the House was stuffed to the rafters when Cameron spoke, so we may be here for some time. David Davies makes the same awful point about Tomlinson and police being afraid of using force. He says police are scared to baton because of the consequences. If you've been on the street or seen the videos you'll know that is not the case.
12:30 – There's a bit of mirth on Twitter at the similarity between Cameron's closing statements and Liam Neeson's "I will find you, I will kill you" speech in the film Taken. In case you;re finding parliament tiring, here's a video of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon practising it themselves.
12:34 – MPs are starting to use the riots for their own little bug bear. Edward Leigh suggests married couples tax breaks would end it. Another MP talks about excessive salaries in the public sector. Quite, quite absurd. Diane Abbott is up. "The further militarisation of the situation we face will not help and may bring things to an even worse level," she says. Cameron says government must ask about contingencies if it gets worse.
12:37 – Barry Sheerman says a select committee inquiry is not sufficient for what's happened. Cameron says we need more faith in them. Malcolm Wicks (Lab, quite Tory-ey) pleads with Cameron to think again about police numbers. Support from Labour benches. Cameron says his time in Croydon allowed him to know the public anger. But it was about police availability at that second – it's not about the budgets of the future. The prime minister's point there is strong, but politically he must know he's in dangerous territory. Andrew Smith (Lab, red-faced) asks what can be done about parental responsibility. Cameron says discipline in schools matters, and the government is working on that. Cameron says young people look towards the gang because the too many fathers have left their community. Conor Burns (Con, bursting at the seams) implies this is all about the Human Rights Act. It's difficult to maintain confidence in the country when MPs performance is so pitiful and self-centred.
12:43 – Margot James (Con, hardcore and seductive) says Cameron is right to stick to his guns on police cuts. Cameron says they're reducing funding without affecting visible policing. Of course, the great unsayable here is that visible policing has next to no effect on crime and it's more effective to have them on stand-by for emergency calls. You're not allowed to mention that statistical fact, but there it is anyway. Peter Lilley (Con, irreducibly so) says Cameron and Osborne's statement both share one quality: They're about people who can't live in their means. "It can't be beyond the wit of man to live within their budget". Nice line. Kate Hoey (Lab, curly fringe mercifully masks the eyes) asks about gang injunctions. What are they? (Good question, I was wondering that myself). They sound a lot like an Asbo, they prevent people doing particular things. Right now they apply only to adults, but they will be expanded to children as well. Richard Ottoway (Con, geographical features) says some people don't know the difference between right and wrong.
12:50 – Sir Robert Smith (LD, invisible) wants to end any fines for those business late with their tax returns etc while they're repairing shops. Cameron says yes. Chris Leslie (Lab, nice suit) says cuts to police budgets will affect the ability of police to respond to problems. And it triggers a bad mistake from Cameron about the economic car crash the coalition was left with. Every question gets them closer to party politics and they should avoid it at all costs, the public will hate it. But then, the quality of the debate has been absolutely dire so far. Cameron and Miliband have been fine and combined operational information with deeper ideas about the cause of the violence – whether you agree with them or not. Most MPs have been terrible. If it's not the perpetual focus on police cuts, it is MPs pretending the riots have something to do with their personal crusade. It's quite disheartening to see them be so impervious to the reality of the situation around them. Cameron is getting worse, I'm afraid, taking Miliband's call for an inquiry into the causes of violence and saying we don't need an inquiry to explain "common garden variety looting". This rather negates his previous argument that we should try to explain what happened.
12:58 – Andrew Bridgen (Con, angry to the point of mental imbalance) says those arguing the riots have to do with poverty are themselves guilty of creating a society which doesn't understand the concept of responsibility. Tom Watson (Lab, NOT TALKING ABOUT PHONE-HACKING!!!!!!!!) says the communities he's talked to say they don't want a cut to police numbers.
13:00 – Mike Gapes (Lab, disarmingly shaped) says the vast majority of young people are decent and law abiding and they are angry of the stigma from the media. Cameron says he's already said that. Julian Huppert (LD, bad beard) says there should be no clamp down on social media and warns that it has been put to good use and not just bad. Cameron says the home secretary will be talking with social media companies to discuss options. He wants the police to have power t shut it down in a certain area at a certain time.
13:03 – Chuka Umunna (Lab, difficult name to spell) says this was not about race and attacks those who would argue otherwise. Cameron backs hi. "This wasn't about race it was about crime," he says. It's quite absurd to say it's about "crime". It's like saying movies are about celluloid. It's patently obvious and doesn't help us at all. Pat McFadden (Lab, body of a child) says we've seen what happens when order breaks down and that he must think again about the government's policy on CCTV. Cameron says the government is regulating CCTV, not scrapping it. Bercow says we're getting too many mini speeches and wants brevity.
13:07 – Tobias Ellwood (Con, with that name you can be fairly certain he won't be Labour) says police should be able to use water cannon without interference from ministers. Barbara Keeley (Lab, steely) says the only reason there were enough police was because they all went to London, allowing Manchester to fall into chaos. Cameron doesn't accept it. Angus Robertson (SNP, looks it) asks what conversations he's had with the Scottish government about the support offered south of the border. Cameron says it was good stuff and is glad they can cooperate in this way.
13:12 – Ed Miliband's full statement has come in. We'll have it up in a moment. Times columnist Ann Trenemann just tweeted a very accurate summary of the debate so far. "Tories want water cannon and bullets, Labour want money and an inquiry and the Libs want to understand what went on." Robert Flello (Lab, no jacket – is that allowed?) tries to make a point. He's heckled mercilessly because of the jacket. "I don't know if we need an inquiry into safety in the House, Mr Speaker, but the honourable gentleman appears to have lost his jacket." Bercow says everything is in order and calls on MPs "to rise to events". Bercow is unpopular, but he's really nailed it there. MPs don't appear to have fully grasped the seriousness of what has happened. It's for superficial wastrels like me to mock people's clothing in a world of chaos.
13:20 – Cameron makes his argument on root causes succinctly when responding to a question from Green MP Caroline Lucas. "Young people smashing windows and carrying away television is not about inequality," he says. David Burrows (Con, nasty glint in his eye) wants police to have less time needed to process arrests. That's one of the more valid concerns on police regulation, by the way. One of the problems officers faced this week was that to arrest someone would have meant two of them go off the street to make a statement – right when they didn't have enough men on the ground. Jane Ellison (Con, like a Kinder surprise toy) praises the broom army who cleared up after the riots. Cameron also says how much he admires them saying they are "the best of British". I really respected them too, but these politician's platitudes are forcing me to resent them. (That was a joke, don't email.)
13:25 – Clive Efford (Lab, respectable) calls for efforts to stop the EDL hijacking the security teams set up by local communities. "There is nothing sicker than the EDL," Cameron says.
13:27 – Rushanara Ali (Lab, supposedly going places) wants Cameron to ban upcoming EDL marches. Cameron says there's a process in place, she should follow it and "we'll try to make sure the right thing happens". Pretty obvious hint there from Cameron that the government will move to ban the marches, stationary or not.
13:30 – Here's Ed Miliband statement to the Commons in full.
13:33 – Barry Gardiner (Lab, looks like a billionaire) says Londoners won't understand his desire to press ahead with police cuts. Nick Raynsford (Lab, demon headmaster) makes the same old point on the police budget. It's getting irritating now. He accuses Labour of being "completely intellectually idle". Even Sir George Young looks bored and he usually appears transcendent. The Tories are just as bad. Calling on the prime minister for stiff sentences, beyond being a bit Carry On, should automatically trigger a training day on the differentiation of powers in a democracy.
13:39 – Tom Brake (LD, robotic) warns Cameron off elected commissioners. Cameron thinks recent days showed we could use more accountable police chiefs. Almost every minute the debate gets less consensual and more bog-standard party political. It's now basically at the level of an average Commons debate. Damian Collins (Con, like mahogany and not in a good way) asks for a review of policing plans for the Olympic Games. Robin Walker (Con, a cross between Edward Norton and a newborn child) wants new powers on social media. Boring. Natascha Engel (Lab, promising) asks how the government will meet expectations for the e-petitions site, given that the one calling for rioters to lose benefits is about to hit the 100,000 benchmark. The PM reminds her all it does is trigger a debate, not a policy change. It's quite remarkable what MPs don't know sometimes. Cameron is called on to crack down on masks and face-coverings. He reiterates his plans to expand police powers in this area. Notably, he does not say these powers will be temporary.
13:47 – John McDonnell (Lab, grave) is worried about firefighter overstretch. John Glenn (Con, arms seem to behave independently of the brain) asks what new threats have emerged for the police. Cameron says the way the riots took place simultaneously across the city meant the police needed to have re-evaluate their response to such events. Liam Fox, further down the government front-bench, seems very happy to have been invited.
13:51 – Chris Bryant commends the prime minister on being reluctant to send in troops, saying it would probably have made things worse. He attacks on police numbers too though.
13:53 – OK, I'm going to take a short break now while Alex Stevenson takes over. You can read his sketch of proceedings, describing MPs inability to escape party political normality, here.
13:57 – Thanks Ian. I was in the chamber for the first hour or so – it was quite notable how easily the slide into party politics took place – but this is still a good day for parliament, which is reflecting the many and varied views of the country once again.
14:00 – Gareth Thomas, the former international development minister, points out to Cameron that Boris Johnson's decisions are leading to police job cuts. A neat little opportunity for Cameron to get a dig in against Boris, if he wants it. The PM insists the reductions in spending shouldn't have to lead to cuts in police numbers. Rather boldly, perhaps.
14:03 – Well, we're past the 2.5 hour mark now – impressive going, although still not quite as long as the phone-hacking scandal. Let's hope the PM had a bite to eat beforehand. I didn't, and I'm now frankly ravenous. In the chamber, former London mayor candidate Frank Dobson is on his feet. Dobbo wants to know what Cameron's going to do about public sector pensions arrangements of firefighters, police officers and the like. Cameron blocks it by simply saying negotiations are ongoing.
14:06 – The Speaker, John Bercow, says he's minded to plough on, "notwithstanding" the negative impact on the prime minister's knee joints. Up and down, up and down he goes. Cameron says he wants to see "better intelligence" about the gangs which prowl Britain's streets. Next comes Fiona Mactaggart, who says there's a "division of view" over police resources. That's fair enough. She wants to see a regular report to parliament showing the police availability figure – and gets an agreement from the PM. Might be worth pursuing, that. Sounds promising.
14:09 – As this statement has gone on the party politics has become more and more brazen. Just now Cameron was forced to tell one Labour MP to hang around until the next statement, on the economy, to demonstrate just how bad the big-picture situation is.
14:11 – The PM is starting to sound a little hoarse, and gets praise from one backbencher for clinging on so long. Cameron's grateful, as he adds in regard to these long sessions that "I'm beginning to get used to them".
14:14 – Nuneaton MP Marcus Jones, whose Warwickshire police force is one of those helping out others, wants to know if these smaller police forces will get help. Cameron says there are already processes in place to deal with this sort of thing.
14:19 – Don Foster, Lib Dem, gets a sarcastic cheer as he's called. He suggests the troublemakers come from dysfunctional families in this country – and claims there are "too many targets" and "too much paperwork" in the varied agencies whose job it is to deal with them. Cameron agrees. "What you find with these families is they've got contact after contact with so many authorities, but it is contact and not work with them" to get them to change.
14:20 – Eric Ollerenshaw, Labour, gets in that he's been waiting for two hours to make a very brief point. Cameron says the point was a very good one. How unfortunate, alas, that I wasn't listening when he made it. Sorry Eric!
14:21 – And finally Cameron's finished. "I thank the prime minister for his commitment to the House over the last 165 minutes," Speaker says. Well. That took a while. But when MPs return from their summer holidays, it is worth trying to get them all in. Apparently there were 160 questions in that; pretty epic, that's for sure.
14:29 – Chancellor George Osborne has been on his feet for the last few minutes, getting lots of 'hear-hears' from Tory backbenchers as he explains exactly (a) why it's not his fault and (b) why he's doing the right thing. "The breakup of the euro would be economically disastrous, including for Britain," he says. Backbenchers are silent on that one, at least.
14:33 – After this statement – and all the backbenchers who want to chip in, too – we'll be returning to a 'general debate' on the issue of violent disorder. The riots, in other words. But first there's this economic interlude. "We will redouble our efforts to remove the obstacles to growth," Osborne says, wrapping up. Britain has been turned into a "safe haven" in the global economic storm. Big cheers from Tory MPs, as you'd expect.
14:35 – Shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who is now making his response, says the "grave threat" to the economy comes from the man in charge of it. The approach of European leaders so far demanding ever more austerity from smaller countries is not working," he says – because it's not helping their economies grow. Logic that, presumably, he would apply with even greater force to Britain…
14:38 – OK, this is Ian Dunt back again. Balls is still speaking. I've never noticed that he's going grey before. Ed Miliband's face is almost dripping onto the green seats, as if he's made of wax. Balls says Osborne has left our policy exposed. "However many times he says the policy is working that doesn't make it true. We know he has spent the last fortnight in Hollywood, but he can't just write a script and watch it come to life."
14:40 – "The wolf is at the door and he thinks it's a fairy," Balls adds (think that's a quote). "The world desperately needs strong and united leadership and we need our chancellor to get out of denial before it is too late." Osborne says he met Mickey Mouse in California. He's been writing the opposition's economic policy. Spare me.
14:42 – I said it earlier, but I must repeat: MPs all look far too bronzed and healthy. I like my MPs fading in the light, their aged transparent faces wasting away under the brutish requirements of Westminster. Far too little misery in the Commons for my liking. Some of them seem almost happy. Osborne is asking Labour to provide a "tough deficit reduction plan". He goes on: "The shadow chancellor is almost alone in the world" in wanting to borrow more. "He is completely irrelevant to where the international debate has gone. He is living proof of why the public will never again trust the Labour party with their money." All of that's true, although given the state of the world economy, it may not be such a bad thing to be off-message.
14:46 – David Miliband just made another intervention. Once he starts he can't stop himself. "If he had given the leader's speech than he had given the Labour party would be in a much more credible place today," Osborne tells him. Now that was sadistic and predictable. David Miliband offers a half smile, knowing he's being used for a meat puppet.
14:50 – Bill Cash asks about…. wait for it…. wait for it….. the EU! Bercow says it's in he enjoys listening to the honourable gentleman's words so much that "it's in the national interest they should be suitably rationed".
14:57 – I just put up Osborne's statement in full. Click here to read it.
15:00 – Kelvin Hopkins (Lan, never heard of him before) makes a very intelligent and patient point about the collapse of Bretton Woods and the effect of international capital. He's laughed at of course. Osborne is very sensible on the Eurozone, insisting that "I told you so is not a credible economic policy". Alun Cairns (Con, flaky) tries to drag the issue onto gold prices (Brown sold them off disastrously). Osborne grabs it with both hands, insisting it cost us £12 billion.
15:07 – Osborne is making the standard points we expected from him (the chaos in the international markets show why we took the right course). Labour are making the points we expected them to (how can you really cut a deficit without any growth). There are a great many people trying to make a point.
15:10 – Osborne is asked why he is so wedded to "crackpot tea-party economics" when it's failing so badly everywhere else. The chancellor insists that Obama is planning to cut the US budget deficit by roughly the same extent as we are. Bit of a simplification there, but simplifications are what you get on a good day in the Commons.
15:17 – If this is starting to bore you, and you'd be quite right to feel that way, try this out. It's a website titled 'George Osborne Looking Evil'. I must say it's quite wonderful and just made me cry with laughter.
15:24 – Interesting, balanced response to Cameron's riot statement from Big Brother Watch (I know, the name is self-defeating, but they're really rather good). Director Daniel Hamilton said: "While the prime minister was right to respond to the public's call for tough action against looters, the government must avoid the temptation to engage in populist authoritarianism. Restricting the ability of people to communicate via social networks, imposing curfews and outlawing the wearing of face-masks are tactics more reminiscent of Mubarak's Egypt than 21st century Britain. The police must be given the power to effectively do their jobs, including the ability to use force where absolutely necessary. Tougher sentences must also be imposed on those committing public order crimes. It is crucial, however, that the government does not adopt measures which take away the very same civil liberties they claim to be so keen to protect."
15:29 – Just going through some of the messages from police since the debate has been going on. Eight addresses in Lambeth were paid a visit this morning and a number of people were arrested for violent disorder, burglary and handling stolen goods. Meanwhile the two people were arrested yesterday in connection with the fire at Reeves Furniture Store in Croydon remain in custody at a south London police station. One of them is 15 and the other 25. A third man, who is 21, has been bailed until September over the incident.
15:39 – Interesting hints of Labour's next stage of attack in Sadiq Khan's (underperforming shadow justice secretary) statement. There's a strong hint there that Labour will treat any news of insufficient prison space as a starting gun on a political blitz on the government. They'll use the riots to attacks Ken Clarke's criminal justice policy either way, of course, but if there's any sign at all that rioters don't have space it's carte blanche time. Anyway, here it is. "I am encouraged by the speed at which people who have engaged in these disgraceful criminal acts are being brought to justice. The process from charge to trial and sentence must be as swift as possible. But this Tory-led government must give assurances that there is the capacity in the prison estate for all those involved in violent disorder to receive the punishment they deserve. 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."
15:42 – Mercifully, Bercow calls the economy debate short and it's time for Theresa May to make her statement.
15:43 – These have been dark days for anyone who cares about their community, May says. It raises many searching questions, the answers to which are difficult to hear and put right. Why does gang culture exist, why did the police struggle to contain the violence. The cause of a crime is a criminal, May begins. What does that even mean? What a hollow statement. May is told by a Labour MP that while the agent is a criminal, a crime has a context. She is asked why no-one has been charged specifically with the offence of rioting. She says that's a specific offence and says the police are making the right charging decisions.
15:48 – More questions from Labour on cuts to the police budget. "It's now clear the Labour party has abandoned any pretence of having a credible policy to deal with the deficit," May replies. Oh, sorry, you're still awake? How foolish of you. Hopefully we'll get back onto the small matter of the breakdown of society again in a moment.
15:52 – I don't mean to drop out the Commons debate but the Green party have just become the first to argue that inequality helps explain why the riots happened. Here's the quote from leader Caroline Lucas: "The bigger picture has to be considered. Britain is deeply unequal. Last year, London's richest people were worth 273 times more than its poorest. Given the growing evidence, from Scarman onwards, that increasing inequality had a role to play in at least some of the rioting, the government must commit to an impact assessment of any further policies to establish if they will increase inequality. If individuals are defined as consumers not citizens, there is danger that those who cannot afford to consume feel they have no stake in their community and become more likely to turn against it. The prime minister has said this is 'not about poverty but about culture.' But it is about both. It is about inequality and culture and how dangerous it is when you mix growing inequality with a culture which puts consumerism above citizenship."
15:55 – Behind May, Michael Gove is making a series of plastic and inexplicable faces as he shuffles papers around. May says six per cent of young people belong to a gang or other. She says they are "inherently criminal and inherently violent". They supply guns, knives and drugs. Many but not all perpetrators of the recent disorder were gang members.
15:58 – There's a bit more information on these gang injunctions, which can ban them walking with dogs or wearing gang colours etc. Hazel Blears (Lab, has done something criminal with her hair) wants to make another point about police cuts, suggesting the government can't do what it wants to with the projected level of reduction of service. On a brighter note, May called her "right honourable gentleman". Far more importantly I've just been told that today's date (11-8-11) has horizontal, vertical and rotational symmetry. Bill Cash has stood up and, quite literally, blamed the Human Rights Act for the riots. I mean it. He really did that.
16:08 – May says over 90% of the 16,000 police on London's streets were Met officers. Meanwhile, the Met has confirmed that roughly half of the 240 people who have appeared in court so far charged over the London riots were under-18. May is starting to be hear hostile questioning from Mps about why more police weren't on the street earlier. She says it was "simply not acceptable that police lost control in Clapham for two hours" but Umunna and Abbott, both London MPs in deprived areas, are pushing her on the point. May says officers were surprised by the speed with which gangs mobilised.
16:12 – This just reported by a journalist at the magistrates courts, to give you some idea of the kinds of people involved in the riots. "The vast majority/a huge percentage of the people I've seen coming through the courts don't have jobs. Most are under 23." In a sign of Home Office irritation with the police, May just told Umunna: "You make a very valid point" in asking why Met did not request extra police earlier. She says that the police rejected offers of water cannons etc and that the current strategy seems to be working. Margot James (Con, strict and seductive) also tries to argue that police should have fewer regulations on their behaviour. May says she intends to give police "backing for robust action". May reminds us that the largest policing event in London is the Notting Hill carnival and that Monday night numbers were about equivalent to that. She says officers were reluctant to break up groups because of previous criticism (a la Ian Tomlinson) about heavy handed tactics. This is quite a disturbing analysis, to my mind. If they're incapable of telling the difference between a man walking away lawfully with his hands in his pockets and someone with a brick attacking a shop then I'd rather they weren't given the uniform, frankly. A Tory MP asks for guarantees police will always be backed by the government in each individual case. I'm not convinced he understands the repercussions of what he's suggested. Or perhaps, chillingly, he does.
16:20 – We're now on face coverings. It was previously for certain areas for limited times. May says the law will be changed to allow them to get rid of face coverings anywhere for any reason if police suspect they are breaking the law. This is a very serious development, which will have a major impact on anarchist demonstrations.
16:23 – May ends by telling MPs Britain has the best police officers in the world. Cooper is up. She is telling us the story of shop owners she talked to. To me, she sounds profoundly coy and fake, but then they all sound that way. Miliband is next to her, looking as if he's about the fall sleep in front of the TV. Vernon Coaker who used to be police minister and May, for all I know, be shadow police minister (don't think so) is to her other side. He looks red-faced and distracted whatever his job is.
16:26 – Turns out he is shadow policing minister. I know you were on the edge of your seat. Cooper says it was awful to watch young people "ripping through our social fabric". She's been talking for several minutes now and has said nothing of note whatsoever. Miliband really does look like he's falling asleep. He has one of those faces where the expression makes it look like the mouths open even when it's shut.
16:30 – Cooper focuses again on the use of CCTV and the plan to scrap Asbos. As usual, Cooper attacks from the right. I've never heard her attack the coalition from the left. Coaker is picking things out his teeth. Miliband is nearly gone now. Cooper says she wants May to affirm the police can make "independent operational decisions" and that ministers don't urge water cannons etc on them. Cooper says we don't need to bring out the army. We have therefore found the right-wing wall at which she will not pass. Andrew Murrison (Con, resembles 70's wallpaper) says that while police should take operational responsibility minister's should reflect the views of the public. Interesting argument. Cooper points out, interestingly, that police have always had water cannon and batton round powers, implying that Cameron's statement outside Downing Street yesterday was theatre.
16:38 – Watching Miliband and Coaker struggle with sleep is classic television. Miliband has been woken up by something going on infront of him. Maybe Gove has finally had a coronary. Cooper is asking for the cost of current operational policing costs. May says she's already clarified. This raises questions about the PM's statement, Cooper she says, given that he implied the Treasury would meet it all. Beside her, Miliband is getting extremely excited. Vaz stands and says the PM was answering his question, which was about additional costs if local authority had to dip into a discretionary fund. Vaz just stepped in there to help out a government minister. Cooper says May must be very "grateful" for a Labour MP's attempt to offer her consistency. Everyone is getting very excited by this. May won't get up. Cooper is laughing at her. Chris Pincher (Con, tedious) wants Cooper to support or condemn Ken Livingstone's party political approach to the riots. Cooper bats it away and gets back to costs, asking if the money will come from the Treasury or local councils.
16:46 – Cooper is, absurdly, returning to the "government cuts go too far and too fast". It's in relation to police cuts, of course, but the point has been ably made. We're getting towards the end of the home secretary/shadow home secretary statement now, after which we'll close the live blog down. It's been tremendously unappetising, as a whole. Oh, May finally stood up. She asks what the opposition's policy on police cuts is, because before it was 12%. Could she guarantee police numbers? Cooper says May already knows Labour wants to maintain police officer numbers. Miliband is doing something very, very strange with his arm. Cooper insists the Tories are cutting more in two years than Labour would have cut in a parliament. Given that Cooper has contributed so little with her speech, I would say it's a shame that she doesn't call it quits and give backbenchers more time (already they'll only have two hours). However, I heard backbenchers' previous contributions and they were so lacking in intellectual or political value that I can't say I'm going to get overly upset about it.
16:53 – I think she's summing up although she's been so mock dramatic throughout it's hard to tell. Miliband is systematically eating all his finger nails. Cooper does caution against "over simplistic approaches" to the explanation of the riots. Interesting. She has alluded to a left-wing view, I think. Hardly an attack from the left, of course, but notable nonetheless. Madeleine Moon (Lab, huggable) makes the valid point that Scotland and Wales did not see the same disorder and that we might like to ask ourselves why. Cooper is now waxing lyrical on gang culture. There are pre-existing recommendations on gang culture which we could implement now. She says there could be cross-party support for that. There are still four areas they want the government to think again. One, a proper commission of inquiry. Two, immediate resource pressures on the police. Three, on the wider issues of resources and need to re-open the policing spending review. Four, on making it easier for police and councils to use CCTV. "We cannot just despair that nothing can be done," Cooper says. She says people are still proud of their country and their community. "People want to stand together. We now must stand together with them to do so."
16:59 – Sir George Young tells the Speaker he'll move his motion later so MPs can have until 20:00 BST to offer contributions. We at politics.co.uk will leave it there however. As I said earlier, we weren't expecting to see you again so soon. If there's another live blog in the next couple of days it probably means another British city is on fire, so I hope you won't be offended by me saying that I hope we don't see you until September 7th, for the next PMQs. In the meantime we'll still bring you all the news, comment and analysis we can on the aftermath of the riots. See you soon.