Labour in talks over royal yacht

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The Independent Online
Promoters of a scheme to build two ships to replace the royal yacht Britannia at no cost to the taxpayer met with Labour's defence team yesterday, as phone-in evidence suggested most people opposed paying for the pounds 60m cost of the new vessel from the public purse.

The group backing another rejected proposal - for a sail training ship - also expressed their disappointment, and said their pounds 65m vessel could have been funded by the private sector.

The first scheme, the Britannic Project, has been put together by a group of shipping and travel companies. They want to commission two vessels costing pounds 120m each, paid for by exporters using the ships for trade promotion and by wealthy people travelling on cruises.

Peter Robbins, the project's marketing director, said the Queen would only need the ships for up to 40 days per year, and exporters would use them for 50 to 60. The rest of the time they would be available for ''six- star'' cruises for ''the most discerning passengers in the world.''

The second scheme, rejected by Defence Secretary Michael Portillo, was for a sailing ship which would take cadets on ''character-forming'' voyages when it was not employed on Royal tours or export promotion.