England riots: Broken society is top priority - Cameron


Cameron: "Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face"

David Cameron has said tackling the "broken society" is back at the top of his agenda following last week's riots.

He said he would review all policies, speed up plans to improve parenting and education and turn around the lives of 120,000 "troubled" families.

To tackle a "moral collapse" he pledged a war on gangs, but the home secretary said there would be "no quick fixes".

Labour leader Ed Miliband accused the PM of looking for "superficial answers" instead of lasting solutions.

As the two politicians gave speeches, courts continued to hear cases of the hundreds of people involved in rioting, looting and disorder across England.

In other developments:

  • The Metropolitan Police have charged a 16-year-old boy with the murder of Richard Mannington Bowes, 68, who was attacked during rioting in Ealing, London, last week. The boy also faces charges of violent disorder and committing four separate burglaries of commercial premises
  • Total arrests across seven police forces by Monday morning were 2,772.
  • By noon, more than 1,179 people had appeared before the courts, the Ministry of Justice said, mostly on charges related to burglary, theft and handling, violence and violent disorder - 65% of people charged were remanded in custody.
  • Two men and a 17-year-old boy have appeared in court charged with the murders of three men hit by a car in Birmingham last week. Another man was arrested on Monday - three others are already on bail
  • Gordon Thompson, 33, has appeared in court charged with starting a fire which destroyed the 150-year-old House of Reeves furniture store in Croydon
  • Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith tells the BBC that people convicted of involvement in rioting could lose their benefits even if they are not jailed

A Downing Street source has told the BBC there will be a "community engagement exercise" in communities affected by the disorder but said it would not be a formal inquiry.

Mr Miliband has been urging a community-based inquiry into the riots while a Lib Dem source said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had been brokering a deal for a "victim and communities commission" into the causes of the violence.

In a speech in Oxfordshire, Mr Cameron described the disorder that spread from London to parts of the East and West Midlands, Merseyside, Bristol, Manchester and Gloucester as "a wake-up call for our country".

He said politicians had been unwilling to talk about rights and wrongs, but "moral neutrality" would not "cut it any more" and said "the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations" must be confronted.


The riots were not about cuts, poverty or race. They were about the difference between right and wrong.

That was David Cameron's view.

In a speech that ranged through topics as diverse as parenting, health and safety legislation and the Human Rights Act, he did not spell out exactly how the government would change its policies.

But he did say there would be measures to deal with gangs and troubled families.

For Ed Miliband that thinking was shallow and superficial.

Poverty mattered, as well as the national culture.

He demanded an inquiry to investigate the causes of the trouble, and said bankers, MPs and journalists had been greedy, selfish and immoral as well as the rioters.

Both men know they need to reflect the public mood.

Both know diagnosing social problems is one thing, prescribing answers will be quite another.

He included children without fathers, schools without discipline and communities without control in a list of what he believed has gone wrong in parts of the country and said people were "crying out" for the government to act.

"The broken society is back at the top of my agenda," Mr Cameron said.

Over the next few weeks, he said ministers would "review every aspect of our work to mend our broken society".

He pledged a "concerted, all out war on gangs and gang culture", which he said was a "major criminal disease that has infected streets and estates across our country".

"Stamping out these gangs should be a new national priority," he said - adding that a cross-government programme would look at "every aspect of this problem".

He has already announced plans to give police more powers to demand face masks are removed and to allow "gang injunctions" for over-18s, launched in England and Wales in January, to be used for children and adults.

Tackling gang culture was the subject of a meeting involving Home Secretary Theresa May, ministers and Acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner Tim Godwin on Monday.

Mrs May said there were "no quick fixes" and every angle, including schools, communities and jobs and benefits, must be considered.

School discipline

Mr Cameron also said he wanted a "family test" applied to all domestic policies to ensure they did not undermine or "stop families from being together".

Plans to improve parenting would be accelerated, including work to target "troubled" families - the prime minister said his ambition was that the government would "turn around the lives of the 120,000 most troubled families in the country" by the next general election in 2015.

More police officers were needed on the streets he said, pledging to cut bureaucracy and arguing that those demanding he reverse plans to cut police funding were "missing the point".

He wanted to push "faster" on plans to strengthen school discipline and said ministers would look at the Human Rights Act and health and safety legislation - which he argued had been misrepresented by some in a way that had undermined personal responsibility.

Ed Miliband: "We all bear a share of responsibility for the society we create"

And, following concerns from senior police officers about his plans to take advice from US "supercop" Bill Bratton, he said the US had been dealing with the problem of gangs for longer and it was right to listen and learn to "inspirational" police chiefs.

Downing Street said that officials and ministers were "looking at a whole range" of options before deciding whether benefits should be cut for rioters and looters given non-custodial sentences - something raised by cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith earlier.

But in a speech at his old school in north London, Mr Miliband warned against "knee-jerk gimmicks".

"The politician's instinct - reach for new legislation, appoint a new adviser, wheel out your old prejudices - will not meet the public's demand for real answers and deep rooted, lasting solutions," he said.

"We've heard it all in the last few days, water cannon, supercops, a daily door knock for gangs and today, more gimmicks. A prime minister, who used to say the answer was to hug a hoodie, now says the answer is to reform our health and safety laws.

"Day by day the prime minister has revealed himself to be reaching for shallow and superficial answers, not the lasting solutions the country needs, based on the wisdom and insights of our communities."


He urged a "national conversation" about the causes of the riots - arguing that commissions had been set up after previous major disturbances to look into the causes.

The police and the government have clashed over the handling of the police response. The Police Federation said on Monday that Mr Cameron was "wrong" to suggest "back office" police officers could be freed up to increase police numbers on the streets - as many did important roles in child protection and domestic violence units.

Some of the Conservatives' coalition partners have also warned against "knee jerk" responses - Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes has warned against treating rioters in social housing differently to others by removing housing and benefits.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 834.

    I think we need to get back to basics! Like John Major and Edwina Curry preached to us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 833.

    Touristfromthefuture @480

    This is fineā€¦!

    But 'in the future' do you not find it helpful that your school 'achievements' find a use after leaving school or college?

    And as you look ahead from your 'future' (sounds very democratic), do you ever wish you could go back to income inequality, something to occupy minds beyond the routine of enjoying and holding down a good job etc?

  • rate this

    Comment number 832.

    riots are not conducive to resolving conflicts in a non-violent manner. children need to be taught to act properly. and what is proper? adults need to be aware that children model their behavior after somebody/thing. it is hard to make children wash their hands before lunch if the caregiver doesn't do so. I recommend the movies "Eden Lake", "Harry Brown" and the series "Skins" for reflection.

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    I am very very sick of seeing Cameron & May using these troubles as a means to gain self publicity for themselves. We will continue to see their faces and listen to their false words and what will happen, Nothing !
    Instead of talking, do something. Let us see something positive come out of this, consult those people who have hands on practical experience and stop all this hot air.

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    This government isn't political, it isn't about politics. It's just plain criminality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.

    Mr Cameron reminds me of Micheal Caine at the end of the original Italian Job film........ Hang on Lads, I've got another idea!

    Lets fall back on the same old Tory plan of stamping the poor further into poverty...........

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    "Political Economy regards the proletarian ... like a horse, he must receive enough to enable him to work. It does not consider him, during the time when he is not working, as a human being. It leaves this to criminal law, doctors, religion, statistical tables, politics, and the beadle."


  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    Cammeron keeps on banging on abot Gangs and Gang Culture. Can he not see that that's a VERY small part of what's wrong?

    And he tells US we're missing the point!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    If your child steals from me or my child that would be your fault, you can't say "its symptomatic of the banking crisis and MPs expenses, little timmy feels disenfranchised".
    Do any of you have kids? "i don't care who started it, two wrongs don't make a right"
    rewarding that behaviour by making excuses for them makes the problems worse. they don't fear authority because they 'know their rights'

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    It's not a wake-up call to the country, it's a wake-up call to Cameron - we don't live in Victorian England[0] with its "morals", the bigoted opinions that "families good, other forms of relationship bad" - we don't have "family doctors", we have GPs.

    [0] some of us don't live in England at all, and would quite like devolution now, please

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    What we are seeing is Thatcher's legacy coming home to roost. The destruction her government oversaw left many towns desolute. Her mantra of "There is no such thing as society" has certainly come about,and the "big society" idea of the Bullingham Boy is just an extention of Thatcherism...everyone look after themselves!

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.

    810. Moderator Friendly Unoffensive Display Name


  • rate this

    Comment number 822.

    I am a working class , Tory voter.
    Never thought I would say this , but, " if its ok for the bankers, politicians, and corrupt policemen to thieve, then its ok for the rest of us"

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    649.Good Samaritan
    Guess what. I am not entitled to benefits because i am white and dont have ten children. Is this right?

    No its nonsense, if you're available for work & fufil the other conditions then you get JSA & if you've paid enough NI contributions (as you imply) you can claim contribution-based JSA for 182 days.
    Either you're talking absolute drivel or you're leaving pertinent facts out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    223. janathome

    most bankers, politicians and sportspeople work hard and are honest... the minority who abuse their priviledges are not typical, whatever a soundbite media culture might present to be true...

    take your point on the minor celebs though

    a clear understanding of right and wrong is what needs to be promoted, and I mean clear; to riot, steal, rob, take drugs, binge drink are... wrong

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    My daughter is a lone parent to rwo children. She works very hard to provide for all.. They are members of the local church. In fact my grandaughter has just returned from church choir tour in Italy. The absent father just walked out on all of them. As a grandparent I contribute financially more than the absent father does. They are all better off with his departure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    773. Brit_abroad. I agreet. And instead of prison lets send them to help the needy in other countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    So, people blame the soft handed left for the rioters. who do we blame for what happened in Norway? The left as well?

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    Actually i take that back, if only for the comment about tabloids

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    re 799.bridgetonboy
    I dont think setting fire to the odd greenhouse in Germany is all that bad really.
    My dad and his mates burned half the country down in the 40's and he turned out reasonably normal.


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