England riots: Cameron readies the water cannons

A German water cannon in use at a demonstration in 2001
A German water cannon in use at a demonstration in 2001

By Alex Stevenson

Water cannons will be made available at 24 hours notice, David Cameron has announced, as the government hardens its attitude towards rioting across England.

The prime minister offered approval for the use of rubber bullets and told reporters in Downing Street that police would have "legal backing" for "whatever tactics the police feel they need to employ".

Yesterday the Metropolitan police said there were no water cannon available on mainland Britain - suggesting they were located in Britain.


That situation is now set to change, Mr Cameron said. The use of rubber bullets known as 'baton rounds' is also not being opposed.

Mr Cameron said he would not allow "any phony concerns about human rights" to get in the way of the publication of CCTV images which would lead to the arrest of rioters.

Speaking after another meeting of the Cabinet's emergency committee Cobra, the prime minister said he expected courts to sit through the night tonight to process the large number of arrests.

"I will expect anyone who has been convicted of violent disorder will be sent to prison," he said, in a move which will place further pressure on Britain's overcrowded prisons.

"Whatever resources the police need they will get," Mr Cameron pledged.

"Whatever tactics the police feel they need to employ, they will have legal backing to do so. We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order on our streets."

'Sick Britain'

The prime minister, who famously claimed Britain was 'broken' in a 2007 speech, today suggested society was "sick", too.

"It is all too clear we have a big problem with gangs in our country," he continued.

"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."

Mr Cameron said there was no one thing which needed to be changed, citing discipline in schools and a properly functioning welfare system as examples of areas where reform is needed.

He claimed the problem was "as much a moral problem as a political problem" and insisted "irresponsibility" was at the heart of the issue.

"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."

Cobra will meet for the third consecutive day tomorrow morning to assess the situation after tonight's unrest, which is not expected to be as severe as last night's.

Mr Cameron will give a statement to parliament, which is being recalled, tomorrow at 11:30 BST.

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