Calls for a new royal yacht to be based back in Portsmouth

The bell of The Royal Yacht Britannia
The bell of The Royal Yacht Britannia
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SHE is a symbol of British sovereignty and of the nation’s monarchy.

And now there have been calls to reinstate the royal yacht – and base her in Portsmouth Harbour.

The plea was made by Flick Drummond, Portsmouth South MP, during a parliamentary debate into future of the royal vessel.

Mrs Drummond told MPs the city was the ‘home’ of the ship and it would boost Portsmouth’s global reputation.

Speaking at Westminster, she said: ‘Portsmouth expects, should Britannia be reactivated or replaced, that we will be her home again.’

But Portsmouth Lib Dem leader and ex-council boss, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he did not believe it would happen.

He said the yacht should have remained in the city and not moved to Scotland after it was retired in 1997 and that it was unlikely a new Britannia will be based in Portsmouth.

‘It was the wrong decision then, and still remains the wrong decision,’ he said.

‘This is the home of Britannia, this was her home port.

‘I keep meeting people who worked on Royal Britannia.

‘But there’s not a hope it will come back, the infrastructure has been built all around it in Edinburgh.’

Some 100 Tory MPs backed a campaign for ministers to commission a panel to examine the case for a new ship – a vessel which could cost £100m.

Critics say the nation should not be forking out this amount of cash on post-Brexit ‘flights of fancy’.

But Mrs Drummond said the burden to pay for the yacht would not fall on the Ministry of Defence or the taxpayer and could be spread.

And she added the government would ensure the vessel was not an ‘excessive burden’ on the Royal Navy’s manpower of budget’ while the Senior Service protected the ship.

Mrs Drummond said: ‘A revived Britannia can help tell that story and promote the skills and technology of the sea at home as well as abroad.’

Her Majesty’s yacht Britannia was in service from 1954 until 1997, when it was decommissioned by Tony Blair’s government.

In this time she helped take royals and dignitaries on almost 700 foreign visits and secured £3bn worth of trade deals between 1991 and 1995.

However, the government later dealt a blow to hopes of a new royal yacht by insisting it was ‘very, very unlikely’ taxpayers’ cash would 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.

He rejected the suggestion Britannia could be recommissioned, adding: ‘Clearly it’s well past its active life.’