The Sunday Telegraph

Royal yacht funding


SIR – Tony Blair has a lot to answer for, but not the decommissi­oning of HMY Britannia (Letters, June 6).

While an MP I served on a committee chaired by Lord Ashbourne which worked up plans to replace the royal yacht, at private-sector expense.

Michael Portillo, the defence secretary, had given us his pledge to man the proposed vessel with Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel, and all we then needed was the go-ahead from the prime minister.

True to form, John Major declined to give us a decision but, unbelievab­ly, from the despatch box shortly before the 1997 general election announced that the Conservati­ves, if re-elected, would build a new royal yacht at taxpayers’ expense.

There is no doubt in my mind as to who the real yacht-stopper was. Christophe­r Gill

Aberdovey, Merioneths­hire

SIR – Garry P High claims that, in decommissi­oning the Royal Yacht Britannia after the 1997 general election, Tony Blair was merely confirming a decision taken by John Major’s government.

In fact, following the election, Mr Blair asked the heads of British diplomatic posts in major trading nations around the world for their views.

As consul-general in Osaka at the time, and prior to that as deputy high commission­er in Madras, I had direct experience of the value of Britannia as a trade and investment-promotion tool from its visits to Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe, Okinawa and Bombay, and argued for its retention. I suspect that most of my colleagues around the world did the same.

Mr Blair ignored us all. I have been convinced ever since that his decision was entirely political, a sop to the anti-royalist Left, and that his opinion survey was a sham.

David Cockerham Bearsted, Kent

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