Royal yacht's a great idea – but don't expect us to pay, says PM

£60m Diamond Jubilee gift for Queen should be privately funded, insists Government

David Cameron last night backed plans for the launch of a privately funded new royal yacht to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year.

The £60m vessel – doubling as a research ship for scientists and a training facility for youngsters – would be a replacement for Britannia which was scrapped in 1997.

But the Prime Minister moved swiftly to scotch any talk of taxpayers' cash being spent on the project at a time when the Government is driving through austerity measures.

Downing Street has backed a scheme championed by the former Royal Navy officer, Rear Admiral David Bawtree, for the nation to give the Queen a yacht as a gift to commemorate her 60th year on the throne. He is understood to have the support of the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal, and to have already attracted promises of support of £15m for the project.

The Britannia was launched in 1953, shortly after the Queen came to the throne, and carried the Royal Family on voyages totalling more than one million nautical miles before being decommissioned by the Blair government. Supporters said it helped, as a symbol of British prestige, to clinch big foreign business contracts. Its replacement would be a 600ft ship used for trade and business events, as well for scientific research and training courses for disadvantaged youngsters.

It would be leased to the Royal Family for limited periods, including for official visits overseas. However, the Government has made clear it would be impossible in the current financial climate to commit public cash to the project. A report suggesting it could be supported with taxpayers' money had brought instant condemnation from Labour.

The ministers leading support for the project are Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, and David Willetts, the Universities minister. In a letter to Mr Cameron, Mr Gove said: "As a country with a long tradition of monarchy, we should be proud to honour our Queen in this way."

In another letter to Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, he argued that events planned to mark the Jubilee, such as street parties and Proms concerts would be transient – and the country should mark the landmark with something more lasting.

Mr Gove also warned of the danger of the anniversary being overshadowed by the London Olympics.

Yesterday, as details of the yacht project emerged, Mr Cameron's official spokesman said the Government would "react favourably" to plans for a privately funded vessel.

"If people come to us and say 'could we do anything to facilitate this and support this', then we would be happy to have those conversations and see what we can do, but it is not a Government proposal," he said.

Earlier Mr Cameron's spokesman had insisted the project could not be supported from the public purse.

Mr Clegg made the same point, saying: "Most people in the country would think the Diamond Jubilee is a wonderful occasion to celebrate together as a community and as a nation. But I suspect most people would think, given there is very little money around, that this probably would not be the top of their list of priorities for the use of scarce public resources."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions