The Home Secretary has been branded “rude” after failing to attend an urgent question in the House of Commons about anti-knife crime proposals.
Speaker John Bercow criticised Sajid Javid for sending one of his ministers to respond to questions about new proposals which will place curbs on suspects, including limiting their social media use.
Mr Bercow told MPs: “Let it be crystal clear that the secretary of state for the home department should be in this chamber answering this urgent question.
“If the secretary of state for the home department aspires to something a little more elevated than to be a jobbing functionary of the executive branch, and wants to be a serious and respected parliamentarian, he has to develop antennae and respect for the rights of the House of Commons.
“In the circumstances that he’s had notice that he should be here, it is both ill-judged and rude of the secretary of state for the home department to send his admittedly brilliant junior minister into the chamber when he should be here.”
The urgent question had been put forward by Vernon Coaker, a Labour MP, who added to the criticism saying the public would find it “absolutely incredible” that Mr Javid had not attended.
He said: “He is not only invisible, he’s vanished from this chamber, it’s not good enough.
“Why is it the case that instead of introducing new laws such as this, why doesn’t the minister with others support the police in enforcing the existing laws?”
Mr Coaker said the knife crime prevention orders would “paper over some of the very difficult cracks” that police officers are dealing with.
The ASBO-style orders will place restrictions on suspected gang members and knife carriers.
Knife Crime Prevention Orders could be issued to anyone aged 12 or over who is believed by police to routinely carry a blade.
The orders will impose restrictions on their use of social media – often a source of conflict between rival gangs.
Subjects could also be required to abide by curfews and geographical restrictions, and attend knife crime awareness courses.
These measures would be tailored to the individual case, but they could limit access to particular sites or ban contact with specific people online.
Although they are civil orders, breaches will be a criminal offence that could result in up to two years in prison upon conviction.
Police will apply for the orders in the courts and, if approved, they will last for a maximum of two years, with reviews carried out after 12 months for adults or more frequently for juveniles.
Home office minister Victoria Atkins answered in place of Mr Javid and said it was vital that officers “have the powers they need”.
She said officers on the front line “required additional powers of intervention to deal more effectively with people being drawn into knife crime we listened and we have acted”.
Ms Atkins added: “They asked us to introduce knife crime prevention orders to reach young people before they are convicted of an offence.
“These orders are aimed at young people who are at risk of engaging in knife crime, it is aimed at people who police call habitual knife carriers of any age and at those who have been convicted of a violent offence involving knives.”
The government has tabled amendments to the Offensive Weapons Bill which will be considered in the Lords on Wednesday and then return to the Commons.