Thursday, 11 August 2022

MP: New royal yacht would help Britain plc

JOHN HOWELL wants a lottery to raise £120 million for a new royal yacht.

The Henley MP is among 50 Conservatives who have signed a letter to senior ministers backing the plan, saying the vessel would “showcase” post-Brexit Britain and bring trade.

Mr Howell said: “I have seen how the royal yacht can work in practice to increase the number of people interested in Britain. There should be another yacht to continue that good work.”

In the Nineties, he sailed on the old Royal Yacht Britannia when he was a partner at accountancy firm Ernst & Young, now EY. He was part of group of business people who went to St Petersburg.

Mr Howell recalled: “We entertained a lot of business people there. Every day on board we would talk about British innovation and privatisation. It had a tremendous impact.”

HMY Britannia went out of service 20 years ago last month.

The lottery idea is the brainchild of Craig Mackinlay, MP for South Thanet. The money raised would pay for the construction of the yacht, which would be owned by the state so that it had diplomatic immunity when visiting foreign ports and would fly the white ensign, meaning it was crewed by the Royal Navy.

Mr Howell said: “We have to find a way of progressing with the yacht that does not involve the taxpayer and lottery funding seems to be a way to do that. The royal yacht would pay its own way quickly with the benefits it would bring the UK.”

The letter was sent to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, International Trade secretary Liam Fox and culture minister Tracey Crouch.

It says: “We believe that now is the time to commission a new Royal Yacht Britannia as a new symbol of global Britain, designed and built domestically to showcase the best of UK shipbuilding and industry, and as a platform for promoting trade.

“There would be no call upon departmental budgets and it would be the people of the UK, through the unique funding method, who would have the pride of having a stake in her.

“She should be at the disposal of both government ministers and the royal family alike to host diplomatic and commercial events, showcasing post-Brexit Britain and bringing trade to our shores.”

In 1994 it was announced that Britannia would not undergo a refit due to the cost and three years later she was decommissioned with no replacement vessel.

Her final farewell voyage was from Portsmouth around Britain for a farewell tour to the Port of Leith in Edinburgh. The yacht now serves as a museum.

During 40 years of service she played a part in 968 official visits and sailed one million miles.

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