Boris Johnson has vowed to “come down hard” on the “scourge” of knife crime if the Tories win a majority at the General Election, with a pledge to immediately arrest and promptly charge anyone caught unlawfully with a blade.

The Prime Minister, who was visiting a boxing gym in Manchester on Tuesday morning, said the Conservatives would give the police powers to “act decisively and effectively” to prevent crime.

In the year to June, knife crime hit a record level in England and Wales, with police recording 44,076 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument.

Under the proposals, anyone caught unlawfully with a knife would be arrested immediately, charged within 24 hours and appear in court within a week – which the Tories say would be three times faster than the current average.

A new court order would allow police to target known knife carriers, while violence reduction units would receive a £35 million boost next year to aid preventative work.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Conservatives have committed to putting an extra 20,000 police officers on the streets (Christopher Furlong/PA)

Police forces in England and Wales are currently trying to recruit 20,000 officers over the next three years to replace jobs cut since 2010.

Senior figures including Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick pointed to a link between the drop in officer numbers and a rise in violent crime.

Mr Johnson said: “A majority Conservative government would come down hard on the scourge of knife crime.

“We have committed to putting an extra 20,000 police officers on our streets, but they need to have the powers to act decisively and effectively to prevent crime and see that offenders face justice.

“That’s why today we are announcing greater freedoms for the police to use stop and search on individuals who are known to have carried knives in the past. We are also speeding up prosecutions to make sure the threat of being caught is always an effective deterrent.”

Recent figures from the Ministry of Justice showed that 38% of the 22,306 knife crime offences recorded in the year to the end of June (8,446) resulted in an immediate custodial sentence, compared with 23% for the same period in 2009.

But suspended sentences were also handed out in 4,326 cases – the highest rate since records began, and there were rising rates of cautions and community sentences.

The average length of a jail sentence rose over the same period of time from 5.9 months to 8.1 months.

Mr Johnson said: “Just as with our plans to improve schools and hospitals, we can only do any of this if we end the gridlock in parliament with a Conservative majority government.

“We had to call this election to end that deadlock and now the choice is simple – either we can have more confusion and delay with Jeremy Corbyn, who wants to call two more chaotic referendums next year, or we have a Conservative government who will get Brexit done and focus on the people’s priorities like tackling violent crime, improving our NHS and investing in schools across the country.”