British police must increase their use of stop and search to tackle knife crime rather than “appease” campaign groups who claim it is discriminatory, Chris Philp, UK policing minister, said.

Philps says stop and search is a “vital tool” in taking knives off the streets but warns it is “not used nearly often enough” by police.

A decade ago, the former home secretary, Theresa May, curbed the powers amid claims by campaigners that black people were being disproportionately targeted by police.

However, Philp says: “The police must use the powers available to them without fear or favour. I want to see them take a robust approach and this starts with increasing the use of stop and search.

“In today’s climate, police stop and search is the best foot forward, we know this. What we can’t do is tiptoe around using these powers in an aim to appease. The first priority must always be prevention and public safety.”

A senior government source added: “We cannot avoid using the powers to appease politically correct campaigners who oppose police action, when police action is needed to protect all communities.”

A YouGov poll reveals that the public think that crime is one of the most important issues facing the country; it places crime at fourth behind health, immigration and asylum, and the economy.

London, which accounts for more than a third of all knife crime in England and Wales, hit a record high of more than 14,500 offences last year..

Stops and searches by the Metropolitan Police in London have continued to drop, reaching137,059 in 2023-24, the second lowest on record.