MPs reconvene to debate the recent rioting in England

It was always quite likely we would see Parliament back before its appointed return in September - but I expected it to be because of economic events, or perhaps developments in Libya or Afghanistan.

They may yet result in MPs and peers interrupting their holidays again. But the session on the riots today will have left David Cameron and his ministers in no doubt that they now have a series of very serious concerns to address.

First, there is now going to be relentless pressure on the coalition to rethink a whole series of law 'n' order policies.

Not just the proposed cuts to police funding, but also Ken Clarke's sentencing policies and cuts in prison places, and the civil libertarian distaste for CCTV which prompted complaints about an emerging "surveillance society".

David Cameron faced some biting questions on the police funding issue from Jack Straw and a bevy of former ministers (what should be the collective noun for ex-ministers - a lamentation?).

He continues to insist that cuts on the proposed scale are (A) manageable in a well-run organisation, without damaging front-line services and (B) essential because of the dead weight of government debt.

But he knows those arguments have just become rather harder to make - and the ability or otherwise of ministers to press them home could be decisive in the elections for mayor of London next year.

In the longer term the events of the last week could make his beleaguered justice secretary's life rather more difficult; police officers are already complaining about modest sentencing of rioters in magistrate's courts.

And the same events also set up an intriguing debate on the Policing Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, where ministers are locked in battle with the House of Lords over its proposals (currently deleted by their Lordships) for elected policing and crime commissioners.

Do the complaints repeated by Tory and Labour MPs that the police stood by and allowed looting and vandalism make the case for elected politicians who could demand a more robust response? (In the Lords, incidentally, Lord Dear, the former Chief Inspector of Constabulary remarked that chief constables seemed "timorous" about deploying rubber bullets.)

I know, the commissioners are not supposed to intervene in operational matters, but it is hard to imagine commissioners for, say, Greater Manchester or the West Midlands, sitting on their hands and piously saying nothing to their chief constable in such circumstances - you can bet that some of them, at least, would be demanding rubber bullets and water cannon should be deployed.

Would that be a Good Thing, or a Bad Thing? We're bound to see that question revived, not least because Lib Dem MP Tom Brake suggested that with resources so stretched, elected commissioners looked a bit extravagant - suggesting intra-coalition tensions could yet sink the proposal.

The PM, incidentally, acquitted himself pretty well in a two-and-three-quarter hour marathon in the Commons - two minutes longer than his previous marathon on the last Wednesday before the holiday, dealing with the hacking affair.

And Ed Miliband delivered what I would rate as his best performance at the dispatch box so far - well calibrated and nuanced.

Behind those two, some thoughtful comments by backbenchers about police tactics, and the need for a national debate about the level of force they should be permitted to use, the underlying influence of gang culture, and the reaction of the public to the rioting and looting.

Those themes will doubtless be explored by the Commons Home Affairs Committee, which has moved fast to announce an inquiry.

They plan to look at, among other things: police relations with the communities where violence took place before the riots; the role of social media in spreading disorder and in the response to it; the role of organised groups in promoting disorder; the role of the official guidelines in dictating policing tactics; the use of standard techniques (containment, dispersal, specialist public order officers, dogs, and horses) and the deployment of non-standard techniques (armoured police cars, baton rounds, water cannon, and curfews).

Committee chairman Keith Vaz hopes to be able to produce an informed response to help Parliament to decide what further changes to law it requires - which is what select committees are supposed to do. And the fact of his inquiry has allowed David Cameron to deflect requests for a full-dress Scarman-style judicial inquiry.

I'm not sure I've ever heard a PM tell the Commons he's waiting for the select committee to report….