The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill has been backed by MPs but could be derailed in the House of Lords.
A proposed ban on trophy hunting imports faces a race against time to become law, with opponents believing its chances of clearing Parliament are below 10%.
The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill would prohibit bringing into the country hunting trophies from species deemed of conservation concern, and is supported by the Government, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
It has already been approved by the House of Commons but a group of peers have raised concerns and tabled amendments which threaten to derail the planned legislation.
No Friday sittings to consider private members’ bills (PMBs) are expected in the House of Lords in September.
With the party conference recess running until October 16, there are expected to be just two possible Friday sittings before the current parliamentary session ends.
PMBs that have not received royal assent before Parliament stops ahead of the King’s Speech on November 7 will therefore fall.
Conservative Lord Mancroft said amendments have been tabled in a bid to “clean up” or clarify parts of the “badly drafted” Bill.
He acknowledged it is “very possible” the amendments could halt the Bill’s progress and rated its chances as “less than 10%”.
Conservative MP Henry Smith, the sponsor of the Bill, said he is speaking with the Government in a bid to secure more parliamentary time for his proposal given it is a Conservative manifesto commitment.
Mr Smith said the proposed ban has encountered “serious headwinds” in the Lords, including via “wrecking amendments” from peers.
International wildlife charity Born Free has encouraged its supporters to press Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Lord True, leader of the House of Lords, to give the Bill “sufficient time to pass into law, and to oppose any attempts to water it down”.
Lord Mancroft described his main proposal as a “conservation amendment”, noting it was drafted by a group of UK conservation academics, telling the PA news agency: “Basically it says you can get a licence to bring a trophy in if it fulfils certain criteria.”
He said the criteria included the hunting operator demonstrating that financial proceeds of trophy hunting contribute to the conservation of the trophy-hunted species.
Lord Mancroft said of the PMB: “How this Bill is possibly going to do committee, report and third reading stages on separate days in October when there are only two Fridays, I’ve no idea.
“That’s got nothing to do with me, that’s up to the whips but I can’t see it possibly getting that time.
“But I think we’re all assuming that it will come back again another time and what I was very keen to do – and impressed on my colleagues during the second reading – was that we needed to, as it were, win the debate. I think, if you read that debate, you will find that we did win the debate.”
Asked to rate the Bill’s chances of progressing, Lord Mancroft replied: “Less than 10% I would have thought.”
He added: “It may appear but we shall be ready for it if it comes, I’ve got my amendments down.”
Mr Smith, MP for Crawley, told PA: “If the private member’s bill is going to get through it’s going to need Government time in the Lords and if there are any amendments then in the Commons, that’s something I’m working on at the moment.”
Mr Smith said the Bill is about UK import policy, adding opponents have pressed “spurious arguments” about how trophy hunting helps conservation.
Asked about Lord Mancroft’s assessment of the Bill’s chances, Mr Smith replied: “If the Government don’t give it time I suspect that’s probably right.
“My argument would be this is a manifesto commitment, it’s got support across the elected House, it featured in quite a few of the other parties’ manifestos as well and the best way would be to allow this private member’s bill to complete its passage.
“I think if it doesn’t then I think maybe not in the next session but in the new parliament it will come back and I suspect other measures will come back that the likes of Lord Mancroft won’t like.”
The Government is understood to remain committed to wanting to deliver on its manifesto commitment via the Bill, although it has yet to consider whether additional Friday sittings are needed in the Commons given the proposed reforms are still in the House of Lords.
Conservative former minister Lord Hamilton of Epsom, who opposes the Bill, told PA: “Conservation costs money and trophy hunters provide it in return for a small number of animals shot. The Bill, if passed, will achieve the precise opposite of what it sets out to do.”
Born Free, in a message to its supporters, wrote: “Opponents of the Bill have tabled amendments which, if adopted, would severely weaken the Bill.
“It is therefore vital that we do all we can to urge the Government to support the passage of the Bill in its current form and ensure it can pass into law in the current parliamentary session.”
A House of Lords briefing paper on the Bill stated: “According to figures from the Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) trade database, 190 hunting trophies from Cites-listed species were imported into the UK in 2020 (the most recent complete year for which figures are available).”