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Launch a private royal yacht, says peer

Plans to replace the royal yacht Britannia with a private vessel funded by banks are being drawn up by campaigners against the decommissioning of the boat.

As the Britannia prepared for its final voyage last night, Lord Ashbourne, chairman of the all-party royal yacht group, said the group was still hoping the Government would decide to pay the pounds 80m cost of replacing her.

However, Lord Ashbourne said he was beginning to feel that the only way forward might be to try for a "privatised" royal yacht. It could be built and then leased back to the state for 20 years. The running costs for the new boat could be pounds 5m per year, compared with pounds 10m for the Britannia. Fran Abrams