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 934.

    It's sad us Brits have to always see the negative, complain endlessly, never happy. We are not a broken society, but a proud and diverse nation, the vast majority of communities stood together in the aftermath of the disturbances, with brooms & cups of tea to the total strangers around them. Having lived all over the world, I have never seen a strangers come together so easily to help eachother.

  • rate this

    Comment number 933.

    As an American I am scared to death about the future of the UK if the British government is taking a cue of how to deal with gangs from an American 'suprecop'. Cops in this country tend to arrest or shoot anything with dark skin that moves. Please Britain if you learn anything from US law inforcement let it be know NOT to act.

  • rate this

    Comment number 932.

    MY CHALLENGE to English & politicians: You've started your journey to a horrible downfall and poor future now and you're heading fast@80mph.When you talk of your broken society,how can you mend that when you've destroyed,distrupted and ruined so many other societies in several countries and killed 10000's.Nature revenge is ultimate.Just another 4-8yrs & you're Great Beggars(GB).

  • rate this

    Comment number 931.

    920. Berty_mcjock. Cameron's statement was well chosen and accurate. His comment that the majority looting were from single parent families is a statistically proven fact. Of course it doesn't include the children that grow up in single parent families that lead constructive lives. But the fact is, I think its something like 80% of juvenile offenders come from single parent families.

  • rate this

    Comment number 930.

    Surely more emphasis should be on rewarding hard working, honest, law abiding citizens rather that throwing resources into helping "broken families".
    Doing the wrong thing rewards you with stacks of electrical goods to sell, free housing, social fund payments, a social worker, a probation officer and free resettlement grants if you are evicted.

    What incentives do we have to do the right thing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 929.

    It'd probably help if we had a PM who put less effort into quotable catchphrases and buzzwords and more into actually doing his job.

    I wait with bated breath for the day we get a government who care more about helping the people in the country than about simply being the ones in power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 928.

    No no no Dave. Surely getting rid of the 50% tax rate for your wealthy chums has to be the top priority. Come on play fair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 927.

    Who was that strange looking woman on "question Time" last week who was dressed as a clown. Has she met David Starkey ? Are these the people who our government are turning to for advice ?.
    Clearly, what was demonstrated by both, is that 'care in the Community' is not working.
    The looney right and left. So I guess it's a balanced view.

  • rate this

    Comment number 926.

    David Cameron is the dog chasing its own tail. If Cameron and crew can Stop doing what they have been doing, then the tail can be caught. Otherwise, this is a sorry exhibition in Futility, with no end in sight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 925.

    Cameron and the rest of the politicians occupying the moral high ground while they drive more people into destitution and despair as they impose more savage cuts on the poorest people in society.

    Don't become unemployed because if you do, you are in for the shock of your life. You can not survive on welfare in the UK. You will go hungry. Is it any wonder riots break out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 924.

    I don't agree with what the rioters did it was criminal and without political agenda. But the question remains, what sort of culture do we have that turns out scores of children who would act with such mindless destruction?

    DC says they have no role models - well who can they look up to? They have seen politicians and journalists get away with effectual stealing and just wanted in on the act.

  • rate this

    Comment number 923.

    As well intentioned as the drive to eleviate child poverty was it was kind of like aid to poor African nations. Of course there are always exceptions but, good parents will endeavour to provide for their family and are unlikely to remain in poverty for long. Especially during the economic boom we had. The unfortunate truth being, just as in Africa, charity often encouraged irresponsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 922.

    @ 914

    Just because you and others agree with cameron doesn't mean that everyone (or even the majority) do, and im pretty sure they'd like a voice. We are after-all a democracy (or supposed to be anyway o_O)

  • rate this

    Comment number 921.

    does Camerons broken society include Bankers , suoer rich, and MP's , Example , Mp's can drag out a straight forward serious motoring offence for months , if i had someone else take a speeding ticket for me it would be sorted and i would be jailed within a fortnight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 920.

    Mr Cameron wants to be careful how he chooses his words...my father died when i was 3, and i was brought up by my mum, without a male role model...when Mr Cameron talks about absent fathers he should specify fathers who have walked out, and not cite a lack of male role model. I AM NOT A PART OF THIS PROBLEM, and dont appreciate being labelled a thug by implication of having no father figure

  • rate this

    Comment number 919.

    We must punish young men who pressure 12, 13 & 14 year-old girls into having sex using bullying and emotional blackmail. I propose that any boy that fathers a child and refuses to support it should be locked up with the child until he learns how to raise it properly. Alternatively, we should remove young males from the sink estates and educate them until they have learned to be responsible adults.

  • rate this

    Comment number 918.

    I was just thinking that David Cameron should set an example and take his family back to wherever-it-was to finish their holiday. He could use the break and so could we!
    Not only that - he should spend his holidays in Britain. The rent for that villa he rented was around 7k. That kidn of money should be spent in Britain, not in Italy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 917.

    @910 Nonsense.When will the Tories take responsibility and admit their failings. Blaming the past Labour government every time doesn't wash I am afraid. Cameron et al have had 15 months to create the mess we are in. Lets hope they don't go full term - God knows what state society will be in by then if they do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 916.

    214. Jonathan

    Denmark has a population of 4 million. More people travel on the tube in one day to work in London. if you think its the solution try buying cheap fresh vegetables in denmark. The take is at a basic rate 50%.

    Nice editors choice

  • rate this

    Comment number 915.

    The problem now is that Cameron & Co don't really understand what is going on, they have no real point of reference, everything they have has been handed to them on a silver platter.

    Evicting whole families for the misdemeanor of one member, yet there was a rioter arrested whose family lived in a £1m house, is their house to be impounded & their family thrown on the street, I think not.


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