New powers for police to tackle rioters

By Alex Stevenson

Police will be allowed to remove face coverings wherever criminal activity is suspected, David Cameron has announced.

Giving a statement to MPs as the recalled Commons met this lunchtime, the prime minister said ministers were also considering whether the use of existing dispersal and curfew powers should be widened.

Many of the rioters sought to conceal their identities by wearing facemasks, a move the police are not usually able to combat.

"I can announce today that we are going to give the police the discretion to remove face coverings under any circumstances where there is reasonable suspicion that they are related to criminal activity," Mr Cameron said.

Twitter and other social networking websites, as well as Blackberry messaging service, used to coordinate rioting activity could also face a clampdown, the prime minister warned.

"Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill," Mr Cameron added. "And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them."

He said the intelligence services, industry and the police were talking to ministers about whether people "plotting violence, disorder and criminality" should be stopped from communicating via these websites and services.

As a result of violence seen across England in recent days the insurance industry faces payouts in excess of £200 million, while many families and shopkeepers face hardship.

Even those uninsured will be able to seek compensation under the Riot Damages Act, Mr Cameron said. The period in which claims have to be made is being extended from 14 to 42 days.

A new £20 million high street support scheme is being established to help affected businesses, while the government will fund at least three-quarters of business rate relief.

Other tax payments for affected businesses will also be deferred, while liability for council tax and business rates is being stopped immediately.

Emergency accommodation costs of those made homeless will also be covered by the taxpayer.

Mr Cameron finished: "To the law-abiding people who play by the rules, and who are the overwhelming majority in our country, I say the fightback has begun, we will protect you, if you've had your livelihood and property damaged, we will compensate you. We are on your side.

"And to the lawless minority, the criminals who've taken what they can get. I say this: We will track you down, we will find you, we will charge you, we will punish you. You will pay for what you have done."