MPs at odds on how to deal with rioters

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An MP has called for the army to be sent in to deal with rioters blighting cities across the UK.

Gosport Tory MP Caroline Dinenage has been in London this week and witnessed some of the trouble.

She said: ‘I was walking back to where I’m staying. It was terrifying.

‘Armoured vehicles carrying police sped to where the worst problems are.

‘It’s like something out of a disaster movie.’

Police in London say every single cell in the city is full.

And as rioting also broke out in Kent, Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol, Ms Dinenage said the army could be brought in to stop things getting worse.

She said: ‘I can’t say whether the army will be called, but this is unprecedented and calls for unprecedented action.

‘We must get a grip on this.

‘Doing nothing isn’t an option, or things could get completely out of control.’

The riots began on Saturday night in Tottenham, north east London, after police shot 29-year-old Mark Duggan when stopping and searching the minicab he was travelling in.

But what began as a vigil spiralled out of control, with shops looted, vehicles set on fire, and pitched street battles between police and the public.

Ms Dinenage said: ‘At the heart of this, there must have been a justifiable excuse, but now it’s just wanton violence.

‘Hard-working people will end up paying. Not just those who have lost businesses, but tax bills and insurance premiums will rise.’

She criticised PM David Cameron, who returned from his Italian holiday on Monday night to deal with the chaos.

She said: ‘It’s right he came back. But it should have been earlier. This had been going on since Saturday and it’s serious.’

Mr Cameron held a two-hour meeting of government emergency committee Cobra yesterday.

He promised an extra 10,000 police officers on London’s streets, taking the total to 16,000, and condemned the acts of criminality that he said were ‘frightening law-abiding citizens in their own homes’.

But he stopped short of saying the army should be used to regain control.

Portsmouth South’s Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock said having soldiers on the streets would escalate the problems.

He said: ‘I’m horrified by what’s happening. There’s been nothing so bad since the worst days of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

‘And it’s already sparked copycat action across the country.’

He condemned the rioters, including those in Salford, Manchester, Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, and the Toxteth, Wavertree and Dingle areas of Liverpool.

He said: ‘It’s opportunism. They saw what happened in Tottenham, where the crowd’s actions were unacceptable but at least sparked by a specific incident. Then they went out looting. They’re destroying lives. There’s no excuse.’

He added: ‘We don’t want the army on our streets. It will make things worse, we must avoid it at all costs.

‘However, we should do all we can short of calling them in, and that includes water cannon to break up the groups.’

Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North Tory MP, called for a softer response.

She said: ‘Armed forces shouldn’t be on the streets. The police can deal with this. And water cannon are useful when there are lots of people in enclosed spaces. So far, there’s been smaller groups on city high streets. Water cannon won’t work there.’

The prime minister has announced that parliament will be recalled on Thursday in light of the riots.

Ms Mordaunt said: ‘When parliament is recalled we must find out why this has happened.

‘It could be communities divided ethnically, or transient workers, who don’t see areas as their homes. We must bring people together so this doesn’t happen again.

‘We should remember as many Tweets and Facebook pages are being set up to bring people together in volunteer clean-up operations as have been sent motivating people to riot.’