The Government has ruled out plans for a new royal yacht and insisted it is “very, very unlikely” taxpayers’ cash will be used to investigate privately-backed proposals.
International Trade Minister Mark Garnier said he would be “very keen” to see a business plan for a new royal yacht Britannia from MPs.
But he made it clear the Government has “no plans and has had no plans” to commission a replacement for the existing Britannia, which was taken out of service in 1997 and is now a popular tourist attraction in Leith, Edinburgh.
He also rejected the suggestion that the existing Britannia could be recommissioned, adding: “Clearly it’s well past its active life.”
More than 100 Tory MPs have backed a campaign calling for the Government to set up a panel to examine the case for a new vessel, which they believe could be a key part of the post-Brexit future.
Suggestions from the group include using the UK’s overseas aid budget to help run it, with MPs also hearing a call for each Whitehall department to contribute.
Tory former defence minister Andrew Murrison joked: “Whichever model we choose can we make sure it is tasteful and not a gin palace, and not a Philip Green-type vessel?”
He warned against the Royal Navy having to pick up the full costs.
Replying to a parliamentary debate, Mr Garnier said there are “hard facts which stand in the way of a new yacht” - including the likely £120 million cost and the need to fund its operation and maintenance.
Mr Garnier went on: “We haven’t seen a business proposal, we haven’t seen a cost benefit analysis and so to a certain extent this debate is hypothetical.
“The international development budget is something which I think is separate from this particular discussion. We’re talking about trade, not international development, so it is slightly different.”
He added to Tory former minister Sir Gerald Howarth: “If you can come forward with a business proposal, I think we’d all be very keen to see it.
“No-one is trying to stop you bringing one forward.”
Mr Garnier also told MPs: “We have to be clear the Government has no plans and has had no plans to commission a new royal yacht, and as such it is very, very unlikely indeed that the Government will use taxpayers’ money to fund a royal commission or an investigation into whether we could commission a new royal yacht.”
Opening the Westminster Hall debate, Tory Jake Berry argued there are many ideas about how to commission a new royal yacht with no upfront cost to taxpayers.
The Rossendale and Darwen MP said of a new yacht: “It should be a shop window for what is best about British ship building.”
SNP MP Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) said: “This is just a wistful throwback to the days of the Raj.”