New UK royal yacht a private affair

2012-01-16 20:24
Royal Yacht Britannia - What do you get for a monarch who has almost everything? Not, apparently, a new yacht, at least not one paid for with taxpayer funds. (Roger Littler, AP/Royal Navy)

Royal Yacht Britannia - What do you get for a monarch who has almost everything? Not, apparently, a new yacht, at least not one paid for with taxpayer funds. (Roger Littler, AP/Royal Navy) (Roger Littler)

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London - What do you get for a monarch who has almost everything? Not, apparently, a new yacht, at least not one paid for with taxpayer funds.

That was the message on Monday as a brief boomlet of support for the idea of providing Queen Elizabeth II with a new royal yacht to mark her Diamond Jubilee was quickly deflated by Prime Minister David Cameron.

It is estimated that a new yacht would cost at least £60m.

Cameron's spokesperson Steve Field said it would not be appropriate for public funds to be spent on a new yacht during times of economic hardship.

"I don't think anyone is suggesting public money should be used for this," Field told reporters on Monday. "There is a difficult economic situation, there are scarce public resources, therefore we don't think it would be an appropriate use of public money at the present time."

But Cameron's office didn't rule out the possibility of helping Buckingham Palace to secure private-sector funding, if royal officials decide that Queen Elizabeth II needs a new vessel.

The idea was proposed by Education Secretary Michael Gove, who suggested in a leaked letter that the queen should receive a replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was decommissioned in 1997 after 44 years as a floating royal residence.

Shed a tear

He said the jubilee offers a "tremendous opportunity to recognise in a very fitting way the queen's highly significant contribution to the life of the nation and the Commonwealth".

Royal watchers who have followed the queen's long career remember that one of the very few times she has shown emotion in public was when she shed a tear at the decommissioning of the Britannia, which is now berthed in Edinburgh as a tourist display.

The ship sprang a leak earlier in January, requiring repair work.

Buckingham Palace officials said they would not be commenting on the matter.

- AP
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