A new law to ban the import of “trophies” by wild animal hunters is to be included in the government’s legislative programme for the coming year.
An Animal Welfare Bill, expected to be included in the Queen’s Speech, will also include tougher sentences for animal cruelty and a ban on keeping monkeys and apes as pets.
Also on the agenda for the coming year will be the repeal of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, giving the power to set the date of an election back to the prime minister and potentially bringing the next national ballot forward from the scheduled date of 2024.
And, as expected, the speech will set out plans for a Criminal Justice Bill to usher in longer jail terms for sexual and violent criminals and a Planning Bill to speed up development of housing, schools and hospitals in England.
The Conservative manifesto for last year’s election vowed to outlaw imports from trophy hunting of endangered animals, such as lion or tiger skins. And in February this year, Boris Johnson confirmed his intention to press ahead with the ban, telling the Commons: “We mean to end the import of trophies hunted elsewhere into this country.”
Campaigners have estimated that a ban on imports of so-called trophies could save the lives of 2,000 wild animals over the next decade, including African elephants and leopards on the verge of extinction.
The list of animals that could benefit include not only big cats, but also hippos, zebras, polar bears and monkeys, which are popular targets for British trophy hunters.
As many as 1.7 million animals are believed to have been killed by trophy hunters around the world in the past decade, with some species bred in captivity to become targets for hunters.
Mr Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds is known to take a keen interest in wildlife preservation.
Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg has written to cabinet members to ask them for “bold and ambitious” bills to include in the Queen’s Speech for the second session of parliament.
His letter made clear that the PM hopes to use the event, expected in October or November, to set out a domestic agenda to move the country on from the coronavirus crisis.
Priorities will include “tackling crime, ensuring the most serious criminals get the time in prison they deserve, controlling our borders, levelling up across the country by investing in infrastructure and transforming the provision of skills and strengthening our public services”, said the Commons leader.
The Criminal Justice Bill will put into law proposals from September’s sentencing white paper, which set out plans to force sexual and violent criminals to spend longer in prison, allow whole life orders for under-21s and child killers and stop the automatic release of inmates who may be dangerous.
The Planning Bill will implement proposals put out for consultation over the summer, which Mr Johnson said would deliver the biggest reform to the system since the Second World War in order to make the development of new homes “simpler, clearer and quicker”.
The “once in a generation” reform has raised hackles among councils who fear it will mean developments being rushed through without adequate local oversight, resulting in a “new generation of slum housing”.
Legislation to overturn the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act brought in by the coalition government under David Cameron in 2011 is designed to prevent a repeat of the “zombie parliament” of last autumn, when it blocked Mr Johnson from calling an election despite losing his majority and being unable to push his Brexit plan through the Commons.
It may run into constitutional difficulties over the issue of whether it is possible to restore prerogative powers to dissolve parliament to the PM.
A No 10 spokesman said: “We know that everyone is rightly focused on Covid right now and the government is working flat out to try and suppress the virus whilst keeping the economy open.
“But we’ve also got to think beyond the here and now and make sure that we are working to deliver our manifesto promises. We were elected to get Brexit done and unleash Britain’s potential.
“The prime minister has been clear that we will not be blown off course in our plans to build back better and that’s just what our next Queens Speech will do”.
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