The government was put under pressure by a wide range of campaign groups and prominent individuals including the former Conservative leader William Hague, the primatologist Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking and Ricky Gervais.

It is legal in the United Kingdom at present to sell ivory carved before 1947 but that exemption would be removed under proposals to be announced today by Michael Gove, the environment secretary.

A ban on ivory sales is to be strengthened under plans to help save elephants from poaching.

About 20,000 elephants are killed every year to feed the ivory trade, leaving conservationists to fear some species could go extinct.

“That’s why I’m thrilled that we are going further than ever before to help end the trade of ivory – by banning it altogether here in the United Kingdom”.

Current rules allow “worked” or carved items made before 1947 to be sold in the United Kingdom while banning raw ivory.

There will be some exemptions from the ban, which extend to ivory that is used in musical instruments, items sold between museums and objects deemed culturally, historically or artistically significant.

“We need to be the generation that ends the illegal ivory trade once and for all”.

“Along with our partners, we congratulate the government on this important step and look forward to working with it to ensure the ban is implemented robustly and without delay”. That consultation period will last for 12 weeks before a decision is made. It will likely give the government better standing when the United Kingdom hosts a major illegal wildlife conference next year.

“This illegal trade involving organised criminals is a global problem requiring global solutions: to end it anywhere means ending it everywhere”, she said.

MINISTERS will today fulfil a long-standing Tory promise to Prince William to ban the sale of ivory products. Noelle McElhatton, from the Antiques Trade Gazette, said those involved in the trade abhor poaching but don’t believe the government’s proposals will “save a single living elephant”. In September 2016, the then environment secretary Andrea Leadsom pledged to ban the sale of items carved before 1990, but not before 1947, although no progress was made on implementation.