HL Deb 23 June 1994 vol 556 cc26-7WA
Lord Vivian

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to make an announcement about the future of Her Majesty's Yacht "Britannia".

Viscount Cranborne

HM Yacht "Britannia" was launched in 1953 and commissioned for service in January, 1954. In the 40 years since then she has travelled over one million miles and has served as Royal Residence and a setting for official entertainment by The Queen and members of the Royal Family during State and other visits overseas and in home waters, and has also been used for the promotion of British commercial interests overseas. She was originally designed to have the additional function of serving as a hospital ship in time of war, but has never served in this capacity and it is no longer practicable for her to do so. Her outstanding contribution over the years reflects the great care and professionalism which the Royal Navy, and in particular her successive ship's companies, have devoted to her.

The yacht last underwent a major refit in 1987. A further refit at an estimated cost of some £17 million would be necessary in 1996–97 but would only prolong her life for a further five years. In view of her age, even after the refit she would be difficult to maintain and expensive to run. It has therefore been decided to decommission "Britannia" in 1997.

The Government will now consider the question of whether to replace "Britannia". The Queen has made it known that in the light of changes in the pattern of Royal visits since the yacht was built, she does not consider a Royal Yacht to be necessary in future solely for the purposes of Royal travel. Nonetheless, in view of the success of "Britannia" in her representational role during state visits, and on other state occasions, and of the part played by the Royal Yacht in trade promotion, the Government believe it right to consider, without commitment, whether there should be a replacement at some future point, together with other options for meeting the tasks presently fulfilled by "Britannia".

The Government will be seeking Her Majesty's views on what should happen to "Britannia" after 1997. We shall seek to find a way of enabling her to continue to serve a useful purpose, even though she will no longer go to sea. A further statement will be made in due course.