By Bill Heaney
A new national flagship yacht, designed to promote the UK around the globe, will cost up to £250m, the defence secretary has said.
And there is a real possibility that the new royal yacht could be built on the Upper Clyde where her predecessor was built and launched in 1953.
A government document published last week put the budget for the new Britannia at £150m, while reports said it could reach £200m.
But Defence Minister Ben Wallace has now given “a firm price” for the “floating embassy” of between £200m and £250m.
Labour’s shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said the party would scrap the government’s “pet project”.
Boris Johnson announced the plan for the yacht in May, which will be used for hosting events like trade fairs and diplomatic meetings.
The vessel, which is yet to have a name, will be the successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was retired in 1997 after 44 years in service.
It will be funded from the Ministry of Defence’s budget.
The prime minister said the ship would reflect “the UK’s burgeoning status as a great, independent maritime trading nation” post-Brexit.
But Mr Thomas-Symonds said the latest costing showed the PM had “lost control of his vanity yacht”, calling for the money to be invested “wisely” on projects such as tackling crime and anti-social behaviour.
The “old” Royal Yacht Britannia was built by local craftsmen and launched in 1953 from John Brown’s shipyard in Clydebank
An “engagement day” to discuss the new flagship was held in Greenwich, London, with Mr Wallace giving a speech.
He said there had been “a lot of reporting around this ship, not all of it accurate” so wanted to set out the government’s “basic aims” for the vessel.
He added added: “Subject to working through bids, competition and technology, I aim to commission the ship for between £200m and £250m on a firm price.
“The competition will run until the end of October. I hope to announce the winners in December.”
After that, Mr Wallace, who visited the Clyde Naval Base at Faslane with PM Boris Johnston before the election in December, said he wanted construction to begin “in a British shipyard as early as next year and have a ship in the water by 2024 or 2025”.
He added: “That’s an ambitious timescale but this is an ambitious project, the chance to break the mould and break some records to get things done in the national interest.”Mr Wallace previously defended the cost of the ship to the MoD, telling the Commons Defence Committee it was less than 0.1% of the £13bn defence budget for shipbuilding over the next 10 years.
But Labour’s shadow Treasury minister, Bridget Phillipson, called on the government to show “a real focus on value for money at every stage” of the project and ensure it supported jobs in UK shipyards.
The Royal Yacht Britannia was built in John Brown’s shipyard in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, and launched in 1953.
Local people hope the replacement vessel will also be built on the River Clyde where Navy frigates are under construction at the BA Systems yard in Scotstoun.