May backtracks under Commons interrogation

By Ian Dunt

Theresa May backtracked on several of her statements about the riots while appearing in front of the home affairs committee today.

The home secretary admitted she had not ordered more police on the streets or cancelled police leave, as she claimed at the time, and conceded that there were far fewer gangs involved than the government assumed.

The last element is particularly telling in the long-term, given the focus David Cameron placed on gang culture in the immediate aftermath of the riots.

But speaking to MPs this morning Ms May admitted the majority of people arrested during the riots were not members of gangs and that gang membership played a smaller role than originally assumed.

Ms May also backed down on her previous claim that she had cancelled all police leave and ordered more officers on the street.

During the tail-end of the riots the home secretary and police chiefs were engaged in an unseemly war-of-words, as each tried to take recognisition for the operation.

"The police proposed they should put more numbers on the streets," Ms May admitted today.

"They came to us and proposed it. He told us what the numbers were and we discussed those numbers."

On the cancelling of police leave, Ms May said she had informed police chiefs to follow the Met's example in terms of numbers, but implicitly accepted she had no power to cancel leave.

"I said, I made it absolutely clear, I expected them to follow that example set by the Met in terms of ensuring there were proper numbers on the street."

Ms May also told MPs that the policeman involved in the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan, which sparked the riots, will not return to front line duty.