Cameron's statement on the riots - live blog

Minute-by-minute coverage of the Prime Minister's statement to the Commons.

Stay tuned for live coverage from 11:30am.

11:33 As you'd expect, the Commons is packed. Cameron should begin his statement shortly.

11:34 Cameron is speaking. It is right that we show a "united front," he says. He pays tribute to Tottenham MP David Lammy for his "powerful words and actions" over the past days.

11:35 Mark Duggan's death was used as an excuse by "opportunistic thugs and gangs", Cameron says. There was no causal link.

11:37 The police made the mistake of treating the issue as one of "public order", rather than crime, Cameron says.

11:38 More than 1,200 people have been arrested, Cameron announces. He repeats his line about "phoney human rights concerns" not getting in the way of publishing CCTV pictures.

11:39 Cameron says it was right not to use the army but promises to look at how they could assist the police in the future.

11:41 Police will have the discretion to "remove face coverings" when they are related to criminal behaviour, Cameron announces.

11:43 The insurance industry is expected to pay out £200m. The government has set up a "high street support scheme" to help businesses recover, and tax payments will be deferred for those in greatest need.

11:44 Ministers will meet the "emergency costs" of those made homeless.

11:45 Cameron moves on to the "deeper causes" of the riots. "This is not about poverty it's about culture," he argues. A first mention for "the broken society".

11:47 The heart of the problem is teenage gangs, Cameron says.

11:48 To the "violent minority", Cameron says: "We will track you down, we will find you, we will punish you."

11:49 Cameron closes by saying that we need to show the world, which has looked on "appalled", the Britain "that doesn't destroy but builds".

11.50: Ed Miliband has taken over to respond to Cameron's statement. Britain wants to return to normality, he says.

11.51: Miliband says he agrees with Cameron on the army -- this is a job for the police. But Miliband asks for clarification for what the army will do to support the police, and how the extra strain on the police will be funded, given that budgets are already stretched.

11.53: Miliband asks: will Cameron now think again about cuts to the police force?

11.54: Can Cameron assure that there won't be an arbitrary cap on the amount needed to rebuild the communities affected?

11.55 "To seek to explain is not to seek to excuse. Why are there people who feel they have everything to gain and nothing to lose from wanton vandalism?" Miliband says that the causes are complex. We can only find solutions through hearing from our communities, or trouble will begin again. How will the government make sure communities are engaged?

11.57 Miliband says we must not forget our own responsbility -- not to the minority of young people who committed the violence, but the law-abiding majority. We must ensure there are opportunities for them and they have the right to expect this.

11.58Cameron is now responding to Miliband. He starts by thanking him and agrees about the need for normality.

11.59: On the police, says Cameron, government's have a responsibility to look ahead to potential problems and contingencies. In the future, they could look at what the army could take over to free up frontline police, in emergencies.

12.01: On police budgets, Cameron says the government is looking for cash reductions that are totally achievable without visible reductions in police numbers.

12.02: The Riot Damages Act does not have a cap on the amount of money available to communities, says Cameron.

12.03 People are responsible for their actions, says Cameron. He reiterates that he hopes this cross-party collaboration can continue.

12:06 David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham is speaking. 45 people have lost their homes in Tottenham, he says. The cry is: "Where were the police?"

12:10 Jack Straw, a former Home Secretary, says Cameron must accept that the cuts will lead to fewer police on the streets. He adds that Cameron must reverse Ken Clarke's prison closures. "We need more prisons," he says.

12:13 David Davis asks what the government will do to prevent "evil-minded people" using the events to increase ethnic conflict. Cameron says the government will work closely with community leaders.

12:19 Nadine Dorries asks Cameron why the police did not have imeediate access to plastic bullets and water cannon. Cameron says that the police came close to using baton rounds but adds that the size and mobility of the crowd meant water cannon were rightly not used.

12:22 We're going to end the live blog here. But stay tuned for live coverage of George Osborne's statement on the economy.

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Q&A: What are tax credits and how do they work?

All you need to know about the government's plan to cut tax credits.

What are tax credits?

Tax credits are payments made regularly by the state into bank accounts to support families with children, or those who are in low-paid jobs. There are two types of tax credit: the working tax credit and the child tax credit.

What are they for?

To redistribute income to those less able to get by, or to provide for their children, on what they earn.

Are they similar to tax relief?

No. They don’t have much to do with tax. They’re more of a welfare thing. You don’t need to be a taxpayer to receive tax credits. It’s just that, unlike other benefits, they are based on the tax year and paid via the tax office.

Who is eligible?

Anyone aged over 16 (for child tax credits) and over 25 (for working tax credits) who normally lives in the UK can apply for them, depending on their income, the hours they work, whether they have a disability, and whether they pay for childcare.

What are their circumstances?

The more you earn, the less you are likely to receive. Single claimants must work at least 16 hours a week. Let’s take a full-time worker: if you work at least 30 hours a week, you are generally eligible for working tax credits if you earn less than £13,253 a year (if you’re single and don’t have children), or less than £18,023 (jointly as part of a couple without children but working at least 30 hours a week).

And for families?

A family with children and an income below about £32,200 can claim child tax credit. It used to be that the more children you have, the more you are eligible to receive – but George Osborne in his most recent Budget has limited child tax credit to two children.

How much money do you receive?

Again, this depends on your circumstances. The basic payment for a single claimant, or a joint claim by a couple, of working tax credits is £1,940 for the tax year. You can then receive extra, depending on your circumstances. For example, single parents can receive up to an additional £2,010, on top of the basic £1,940 payment; people who work more than 30 hours a week can receive up to an extra £810; and disabled workers up to £2,970. The average award of tax credit is £6,340 per year. Child tax credit claimants get £545 per year as a flat payment, plus £2,780 per child.

How many people claim tax credits?

About 4.5m people – the vast majority of these people (around 4m) have children.

How much does it cost the taxpayer?

The estimation is that they will cost the government £30bn in April 2015/16. That’s around 14 per cent of the £220bn welfare budget, which the Tories have pledged to cut by £12bn.

Who introduced this system?

New Labour. Gordon Brown, when he was Chancellor, developed tax credits in his first term. The system as we know it was established in April 2003.

Why did they do this?

To lift working people out of poverty, and to remove the disincentives to work believed to have been inculcated by welfare. The tax credit system made it more attractive for people depending on benefits to work, and gave those in low-paid jobs a helping hand.

Did it work?

Yes. Tax credits’ biggest achievement was lifting a record number of children out of poverty since the war. The proportion of children living below the poverty line fell from 35 per cent in 1998/9 to 19 per cent in 2012/13.

So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s a bit of a weird system in that it lets companies pay wages that are too low to live on without the state supplementing them. Many also criticise tax credits for allowing the minimum wage – also brought in by New Labour – to stagnate (ie. not keep up with the rate of inflation). David Cameron has called the system of taxing low earners and then handing them some money back via tax credits a “ridiculous merry-go-round”.

Then it’s a good thing to scrap them?

It would be fine if all those low earners and families struggling to get by would be given support in place of tax credits – a living wage, for example.

And that’s why the Tories are introducing a living wage...

That’s what they call it. But it’s not. The Chancellor announced in his most recent Budget a new minimum wage of £7.20 an hour for over-25s, rising to £9 by 2020. He called this the “national living wage” – it’s not, because the current living wage (which is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, and currently non-compulsory) is already £9.15 in London and £7.85 in the rest of the country.

Will people be better off?

No. Quite the reverse. The IFS has said this slightly higher national minimum wage will not compensate working families who will be subjected to tax credit cuts; it is arithmetically impossible. The IFS director, Paul Johnson, commented: “Unequivocally, tax credit recipients in work will be made worse off by the measures in the Budget on average.” It has been calculated that 3.2m low-paid workers will have their pay packets cut by an average of £1,350 a year.

Could the government change its policy to avoid this?

The Prime Minister and his frontbenchers have been pretty stubborn about pushing on with the plan. In spite of criticism from all angles – the IFS, campaigners, Labour, The Sun – Cameron has ruled out a review of the policy in the Autumn Statement, which is on 25 November. But there is an alternative. The chair of parliament’s Work & Pensions Select Committee and Labour MP Frank Field has proposed what he calls a “cost neutral” tweak to the tax credit cuts.

How would this alternative work?

Currently, if your income is less than £6,420, you will receive the maximum amount of tax credits. That threshold is called the gross income threshold. Field wants to introduce a second gross income threshold of £13,100 (what you earn if you work 35 hours a week on minimum wage). Those earning a salary between those two thresholds would have their tax credits reduced at a slower rate on whatever they earn above £6,420 up to £13,100. The percentage of what you earn above the basic threshold that is deducted from your tax credits is called the taper rate, and it is currently at 41 per cent. In contrast to this plan, the Tories want to halve the income threshold to £3,850 a year and increase the taper rate to 48 per cent once you hit that threshold, which basically means you lose more tax credits, faster, the more you earn.

When will the tax credit cuts come in?

They will be imposed from April next year, barring a u-turn.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.