A successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia should be named after Boris Johnson’s dog Dilyn as it is “a pet project” of the Prime Minister, it has been suggested at Westminster.
The idea was mooted in Parliament as the Government was pressed over the planned £200 million national flagship, which was branded “an extravagant folly”.
A key concern raised in the House of Lords was the cost of the trade vessel falling on the Ministry of Defence, given MPs have previously criticised the “funding black hole” of £17 billion in the military equipment budget.
Earlier this year, Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee warned defence chiefs faced “tough choices” if they were to balance the books.
Unlike Britannia, which was decommissioned in 1997, 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.
The vessel will be used to host trade fairs, ministerial summits and diplomatic talks.
The ship will be crewed by the Royal Navy and is expected to be in service for around 30 years.
Tackling the Government in the upper chamber about the plan, Liberal Democrat Lord Wallace of Saltaire said: “Since this is a pet project of the Prime Minister does the Government plan to name the ship Dilyn?”
Responding, defence minister Baroness Goldie said: “There may be much speculation about the name of the ship but it is premature to discuss that just now.
“That will announced in due course.”
Labour peer Lord Hunt of Kings Heath said: “As the department has been lumbered with the responsibility for this extravagant folly, will she say what contribution she expects the boat to make to our defence capability and will her department be fully compensated for the cost?”
Lady Goldie said: “I am somewhat saddened by his lacklustre attitude because this is an exciting prospect for British shipbuilding, for our skills base in that industry and the supply chain.
“It is opening a new chapter in our global engagement focused on trade, investment and British jobs.
“The MoD is responsible for the national flagship because our secretary of state is the shipbuilding tsar and more than any other government department we have significant experience in building ships.
“This new ship will be an innovative maritime mobile trade ambassador.”
Labour peer Lord Sikka said: “This is another vanity project by the Prime Minister, just like his £53 million garden bridge and the £5.2 million estuary airport.
“Does the minister agree that the proposed £200 million would generate more jobs by feeding hungry schoolchildren during the summer break, tackling domestic violence or hiring 6,600 new nurses?”
Lady Goldie said: “It is the judgment of this Government that the creation of and investment in the new national flagship is a very substantial means of enhancing global engagement, with the specific intention of improving trade relations and identifying and inviting potential global customers to invest in the UK, create jobs and thereby create the wealth and expenditure for the very worthy purposes to which he has referred.”
Labour frontbencher Lord Coaker said it was “disappointing and shocking” the building costs would be met from the defence budget.
He said: “If the Government are determined to go ahead with this, would it not be better for the MoD’s money to be spent not on this prime ministerial vanity project but on another maritime patrol aircraft or frigate?”
Lady Goldie said: “The MoD is one government department but we operate in conjunction with others.
“We consider it our duty to support these other government departments in their respective obligations and missions.”