Downing Street backs down on riot commission

By Ian Dunt

The government made a partial U-turn on its response to the riots today, with a promise to set up a commission on the disorder.

The move falls short of Ed Miliband's plea for a national inquiry to speak to the communities hit by the violence and learn lessons from last week's chaos.

Speaking in central London this morning, Nick Clegg promised a communities and victims panel which will report back in six to nine months.

While short of the full inquiry called for by the Labour leader, it is a significant move in his direction, taking the assessment process outside of parliament and into the communities affected by the violence.

"To command the confidence of the communities hit and to make real change happen it needs to be independent, with a membership going well beyond the great and the good," Mr Miliband responded.

"And it must have the freedom to examine the facts and make recommendations to government and communities so this kind of rioting can never happen again.

"Provided the government meets these tests, they will have my support for their proposal."

Mr Clegg struck a similar tone to Mr Miliband during the speech, insisting that it was too early to come to conclusions about the causes and long-term response to the riots.

"It's really important we deal with this with a certain degree of humility. No-one predicted this," he said.

The deputy prime minister did not deviate too far from Downing Street's line, however, insisting that the riot was "a nihilistic outburst of acquisitive crime".

He added: "There does seem to be some early evidence that there was a strong gang presence."