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David Cameron has vowed to do "whatever it takes" to restore order to the streets after four days of looting and rioting brought chaos and destruction to English towns and cities.

Addressing an emergency session of the House of Commons the Prime Minister promised the Government would pay to compensate the victims of the disorder while retaining a reinforced police presence in London.

In a wide-ranging statement he said ministers were keeping the sentencing powers of the courts under "constant review" and pledged to tackle the gang culture which he said lay behind much of the violence as a "national priority".

He said officials were also considering whether they could stop people plotting disorder via social media websites and he opened up the prospect the Army could take on some policing tasks to free up more officers for the front line.

However, during a two hour 45 minute session answering MPs' questions, he fended off repeated Labour demands to rethink planned cuts to police budgets, insisting that they would not affect the numbers of officers on the streets.

 

 

A woman is to command a warship for the first time in the history of the Royal Navy, it has emerged.

Lieutenant Commander Sarah West, 39, will take control of HMS Portland, making her the first female commander of a frontline warship in the 500-year history of the service, a Royal Navy spokesman said.

She will take charge of the Type 23 frigate in April next year.

The Royal Navy first allowed women to go to sea in 1990 and until now they have commanded non-fighting Navy ships but not frontline warships.

Lt Cdr West is said to have earned the role because of her "leadership, confidence, moral courage, sound judgment and excellent people skills".

A Royal Navy spokesman said: "We can confirm the appointment of Lt Cdr Sarah West, who will be Commander West from January as CO of HMS Portland. She will take over command in April 2012.

 

 

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has dismissed calls to axe the 50p income tax rate for the highest earners as "cloud cuckoo land".

The Liberal Democrat minister admitted the Government was "concerned" about the state of the UK economy following poor growth figures earlier this week.

But he rejected calls to scrap the top tax rate to make the UK more competitive.

Last week Mayor of London Boris Johnson said abolishing the levy on the highest earners, brought in under Labour, would be "a signal that London is open for business".

That was backed by former Chancellor Norman Lamont who said British taxation was "uncompetitive" and "too high compared with other European countries".

In an article for the Sunday Telegraph, he added: "The 50% higher rate of income tax is probably one tax which could be abolished without any effect on revenue."

But Mr Alexander insisted the coalition agreement set out how the Government's "first priority" for any reduction in tax would be aimed at low and middle income earners.

 

Transport operator National Express has said the tough economic climate was encouraging passengers to seek cheaper methods of travel as it laid out ambitions to grow its UK bus business.

The group said it planned to add 120 new buses to its West Midlands fleet this year and draw in more customers with a new marketing campaign, as there was evidence the UK recession had encouraged passengers to seek "more cost effective" modes of transport.

Elsewhere, the company said it would add routes to its coach businesses and draw in customers with new special offer fares - in line with its successful £9 go anywhere deal which expires on Thursday - and that there were future franchise opportunities approaching for its rail arm.

The positive outlook came as the group posted a 26% hike in pre-tax profits to £95.5 million in the six months to June 30 after a 6% increase in revenues to £1.1 billion.

 

One of Britain's most senior policemen has dismissed David Cameron's suggestion that foreign police chiefs could be brought in to turn around UK forces as "simply stupid".

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), has written to the Prime Minister asking him for a meeting to discuss his comments in the House of Commons last week.

Mr Cameron suggested the phone hacking crisis called for "radical" changes to British policing to open up forces and bring in "fresh leadership". He told MPs: "At the moment, the police system is too closed. There is only one point of entry into the force. There are too few, and arguably too similar, candidates for the top jobs.

"Why should all police officers have to start at the same level? Why should not someone with a different skill set be able to join the police force in a senior rank? Why should not someone who has been a proven success overseas be able to help us to turn around a force here at home?"

Sir Hugh, who is considered a frontrunner to become the next Metropolitan Police Commissioner after Sir Paul Stephenson resigned over the phone hacking scandal, said he was "slightly surprised" by the Prime Minister's comments.

 

News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks has agreed to give evidence to MPs over the phone hacking scandal next week, it has been announced.

But the Commons Culture Select Committee has issued a summons to media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his son James after they said they were unavailable to attend the session. The younger Murdoch had offered to appear on August 10 instead.

It is not clear whether the committee will be able to compel the men to face questioning as they are US citizens.

In his letter to committee chairman John Whittingdale, Mr Murdoch senior said that although he was not available on Tuesday, he was "fully prepared" to give evidence to the judge-led inquiry announced by David Cameron.

"I will be taking steps to notify those conducting the inquiry of my willingness to do so," the letter said. "Having done this, I would be happy to discuss with you how best to give evidence to your committee."

The development came after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted Mr Murdoch should submit to a grilling by the committee if he has a "shred of responsibility".

 

The pace of Britain's economic recovery is too slow and the Government needs to do more to support business, a key lobby group has warned.

Economic growth between April and June remained positive but the recovery is fragile and facing serious risks, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said.

The international background has become more uncertain, with worsening debt problems in the Eurozone and concerns around the US housing market, which has hit hopes of rebalancing the UK economy toward net exports, the BCC quarterly survey found.

The BCC expects the UK economy to have grown 0.3% in the second quarter of 2011 as the services and manufacturing sector put in a "mixed" performance.

Official figures showed that the UK's economy grew by 0.5% in the first quarter of 2011, after a 0.5% decline in the final quarter of 2010, meaning the economy effectively flatlined for six months.

 

 

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke's plans to limit the use of remand and reform controversial indeterminate sentences put cost-cutting before public protection, Labour has said.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said his party could not support the legislation and claimed ministers were "out of touch" with public concern over crime.

The plans leave a £140 million hole in the Ministry of Justice budget, with further uncosted proposals still to come, he said.

Mr Khan also hit out at the Bill's changes to the legal aid system, claiming the "poorest and most in need" were being hit hardest by the Government's cuts. Limiting the use of remand "undermines a vital tool judges and magistrates should have at their disposal", Mr Khan said.

He added that Labour will also "not accept plans that water down the protection given to the public by indeterminate sentences for public protection". "This Government is out of touch with public concerns on crime and justice," Mr Khan said.

Parts of Britain are set for another scorcher, but forecasters warned thunderstorms could bring the short-lived heatwave to an abrupt end.

Temperatures will hit 31C (88F) in some parts of the country, beating the highs of 28C (82F) that made Sunday the hottest day of the year so far.

But by Monday evening the hot weather could be broken by thunder and showers.

Andy Ratcliffe, a forecaster at MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "Much of England will be hot and humid again. We're looking at highs reaching about 31C (88F) in the London area.

"But there is the chance of scattered thundery showers developing, and there could be local downpours where they occur."

Although some parts of Britain will enjoy soaring temperatures, some areas will be cooler than they were on Sunday, he said.

 

Met Office staff are to share a bonus pot of around £1.3 million, it has been revealed.

The weather service, which is part of the Ministry of Defence, confirmed that its 1,800 employees are in line for the pay-out after it met or exceeded all of its targets.

That will mean an average of around £700 for each worker.

Chief executive John Hirst was awarded an annual performance bonus of £50,000 last year, taking his total pay to £225,000.

Chief scientist Julia Slingo saw her bonus rise to £25,000, with her total package worth £170,000.