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Rishi Sunak is expected to put crime and energy at the heart of his final legislative King’s Speech next month, along with the potential creation of an independent football regulator.

The UK prime minister this week marked his first anniversary in Number 10 by suggesting he intends to govern until an election next autumn. “What can a country achieve in 52 weeks? Watch this space,” he said in a video.

The King’s Speech on November 7 is a crucial moment for Sunak, who may now be at the halfway point of his premiership, as well as marking a debut as monarch for King Charles at the state opening of parliament. This time the legislative package has to meet a number of tests.

The first test, ordained by chief whip Simon Hart, is that any legislation does not provoke splits among Conservative MPs, who are already jittery about the prospect of losing their seats to Labour and other opposition parties next year.

Senior government figures said that a long-promised bill to ban sexual orientation and gender identity conversion therapy, a highly emotive subject, will “definitely not” be making its way on to the statute book.

The final legislative package of this parliament will also be constrained by time. “People have forgotten what an election year is like,” said one cabinet member. “MPs want to be campaigning in their constituencies.”

Votes focused on Tuesdays and Wednesdays will become the norm, allowing Tory MPs to spend the rest of the week knocking on doors in their constituencies.

Sunak also wants to set some political traps for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who is ahead in opinion polls by an average of 17-18 points.

Downing Street insiders point to a sweeping criminal justice bill as being at the heart of measures to be set out by King Charles. Ministers have promised tougher sentencing for serious crimes, including rape.

The government has also announced it will legislate to allow it to rent prison places abroad, in order to help alleviate chronic overcrowding in UK jails. Offenders will be required to attend sentencing hearings, after a number of high-profile convicted criminals chose to stay away.

Sir Bob Neill, Tory chair of the House of Commons justice select committee, said he had not been convinced a new crime and justice bill was needed. But he acknowledged it could “set on a statutory basis” some of the changes announced by ministers regarding sentencing and enshrine in law new rights for victims.

Sunak’s allies say there will also be legislation on energy, probably including a bill relating to future oil and gas drilling in the North Sea — a measure that Labour claims would be purely political and intended to highlight the party’s opposition to future exploration.

Industry executives believe ministers could introduce legislation to commit the government to a new oil and gas licensing round, forcing Labour to say if it would repeal it.

Culture secretary Lucy Frazer is also pushing for legislation to create an independent football watchdog, an idea flowing from former minister Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review, which reported in 2021.

The regulator would vet owners, scrutinise club finances and block English teams from joining breakaway competitions such as the ill-fated “European Super League”. Ministers argue it would help safeguard smaller clubs, including those in northern “red wall” seats.

Sunak has also promised legislation to phase out smoking, announcing plans to ban the sale of tobacco to anyone born after January 1 2009 in his Tory conference speech this month.

Some Conservative MPs are worried that the legislative package could be underwhelming. “The PM needs to throw some red meat to party supporters,” said one Tory official. “Maybe on trans issues, but particularly sensible proposals on immigration.”

MPs on the right of the party have been calling for new laws on trans issues, which could form the basis of a key dividing line with Labour. Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former Conservative leader, suggested a legal limit on the participation of trans athletes in women and girls’ competitive sports. 

One former minister warned that the “grassroots are not as active as they need to be”, urging Sunak to inject some “flavour” into the agenda in order to galvanise activists who will be essential come election time.

Final decisions on the King’s Speech will be decided by the cabinet in the coming days, but the legislative package will include seven unresolved bills “rolled over” from the current session, which ended on Thursday. Downing Street declined to comment.

Penny Mordaunt, leader of the House of Commons, argues that ministers have been busy since May 2022, when the late Queen Elizabeth formally opened the current legislative session, enacting 43 government bills.

But at times Britain’s legislature has seemed quiet. Since MPs rose for their summer recess on July 20, the House of Commons has sat on only 19 days. It is now on another break until November 7.

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