Lord Clarke blasts new £200m Royal Yacht Britannia as 'nonsense'

Lord Clarke blasts plans for new £200m Royal Yacht Britannia as ‘silly populist nonsense’ when Covid-hit Britain ‘has no money’ for it

  • Grandee Lord Clarke blasted the plan as nonsense in broadside at the boat 
  • Vessel will be used to host trade fairs, ministerial summits and diplomatic talks 
  • Will be first national flagship since Britannia, which was decommissioned in 1997

Conservative peer and party grandee Ken Clarke has attempted to sink Boris Johnson’s plan for a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia, branding it ‘silly populist nonsense’.

Lord Clarke said the £200 million national flagship demonstrates that some in No 10 believe there is ‘free money’ despite the stretched state of the national finances.

Cabinet minister Matt Hancock insists the vessel will pay for itself by boosting British trade with countries where it can dock.

Lord Clarke’s criticism came as official figures showed that government borrowing stood at £24.3 billion in May – down from £43.8 billion a year earlier at the height of the pandemic, but still the second highest figure for the month on record and £18.9 billion more than in 2019.

Conservative peer Lord Clarke told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the new vessel is a ‘complete waste of time, silly populist nonsense’ and ‘we have no money’ for it.

‘It’s a symptom – £200 million is not going to cause problems, but it shows there are people in No 10 who just think there’s free money and who think that waving a Union Jack and sending yachts and aircraft carriers around the world shows what a great power we are.

Grandee Lord Clarke blasted the plan as nonsense in broadside at the plans to build the boat

Cabinet minister Matt Hancock insists the vessel will pay for itself by boosting British trade

An artist’s impression of the new national flagship which has not yet been built 

‘We have no money for that kind of thing.’

The vessel will be paid for out of the defence budget despite not being a warship.

It will be the first national flagship since Britannia, which was decommissioned in 1997, but the new vessel will be a ship rather than a luxury yacht and is aimed at boosting the Prime Minister’s post-Brexit vision of the UK as a global trading nation.

Health Secretary Mr Hancock rejected Lord Clarke’s criticism of the scheme.

‘The amount of investment that you can get in from the rest of the world by showing the best of Britain in harbours the world over is very, very significant,’ Mr Hancock told Today.

‘And I think we should be getting out there and trading with the world.

The Royal Yacht was particularly important to the Royal Family, who used it as a private getaway for holidays and honeymoons for more than 40 years.

Queen ‘turned down’ Boris Johnson’s plan to name £200m successor to royal yacht Britannia after Prince Philip 

The successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia will not be named after the late Duke of Edinburgh as Prime Minister Boris Johnson had hoped.   

Costing up to £200 million, the boat will be used to host ministerial summits and diplomatic talks as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to build links with other countries following Brexit. 

It will be the first national flagship since Britannia, which was decommissioned in 1997, but the new vessel will be a ship rather than a luxury yacht. 

The old vessel is currently berthed in Edinburgh, Scotland. 

It was hoped that the ship would be named after the Prince Philip, who died in April at the age of 99, but the PM’s plan was rejected by the royals. 

A senior Whitehall inside had said the ship would be named after Prince Philip, who played a role in designing the original Britannia, if Buckingham Palace agreed to the plan. 

But, a royal source said the suggestion was ‘too grand’ and added ‘it is not something we have asked for.’ 

 The Royal Family will not be using the new ship for personal travel or holidays, as they previously did with the former Royal Yacht Britannia, but will be able to use it to undertake overseas visits at the request of the government.

‘And so I think that a royal yacht is a great idea and I’m very positive about it, because I think it will more than pay for itself many, many times over.’

Former chancellor Lord Ken Clarke said that spending £200 million on a new royal yacht was a ‘complete waste of time’.

When asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday if he thought it was a good use of public funds, he said: ‘Complete waste of time, silly populist nonsense.

‘It’s a symptom, £200 million is not going to cause problems, but it shows there are people in Number 10 who just think there’s free money and who think that waving a Union Jack and sending yachts and aircraft carriers around the world shows what a great power we are.

‘We have no money for that kind of thing.’

A new royal yacht will ‘pay for itself many, many times over’ because it will bring in investment from the rest of the world, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

He defended the plans and disagreed with comments by Tory former chancellor Lord (Ken) Clarke that it is a ‘complete waste of time’.

‘The amount of investment that you can get in from the rest of the world by showing the best of Britain in harbours the world over is very, very significant,’ Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘And I think we should be getting out there and trading with the world.

‘And so I think that a royal yacht is a great idea and I’m very positive about it, because I think it will more than pay for itself many, many times over.’ 

Construction of the new ship is expected to begin as soon as 2022 and it will enter service within the next four years. 

The tendering process for the design and construction of the vessel will launch shortly, with an emphasis on showcasing British design expertise and the latest innovations in green technology.

It is expected to be in service for about 30 years, and will be crewed by the Royal Navy. 

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