A £250m scheme to create a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia has been scrapped – with the Defence Secretary telling MPs the procurement of a new Royal Navy vessel is being prioritised instead.
The national flagship plan was sunk by Rishi Sunak's administration as Whitehall braced for cuts in the 17 November autumn statement by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.
The plan had been championed by Boris Johnson when he was Prime Minister but has faced criticism from MPs at a time when there are other priorities for defence spending.
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Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he was prioritising the procurement of the multi-role ocean surveillance ship (MROSS) instead of the flagship.
"In the face of the Russian illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and (Vladimir) Putin's reckless disregard of international arrangements designed to keep world order, it is right that we prioritise delivering capabilities which safeguard our national infrastructure," he said.
That meant he had "also directed the termination of the national flagship competition with immediate effect to bring forward the first MROSS ship in its place".
Mr Wallace told MPs the MROSS would "protect sensitive defence infrastructure and civil infrastructure" and "improve our ability to detect threats to the seabed and cables".
Watch: A former First Sea Lord spoke to Forces News about his "very special" time serving the Queen on board Royal Yacht Britannia.
Shadow defence secretary John Healey welcomed the news that the "previous prime minister's vanity project" has been scrapped and the spending switched to "purposes that will help defend the country".
It was revealed in May last year that the Royal Yacht Britannia successor was to be crewed by Royal Navy personnel and the construction of the vessel was expected to begin this year.
The vessel had been expected to be constructed in the UK and taken to the water in 2024 or 2025, and would have toured the world as a "floating embassy".
But the Daily Telegraph, which has been campaigning for a replacement for Britannia, reported that the two private consortia bidding for the work were told on Monday morning the project is being axed.
The Defence Secretary last year defended the decision to fund the building of a successor for the Royal Yacht Britannia as "affordable" in the face of growing criticism and questions from MPs.
The Commons Defence Committee warned in 2021 that there was "no evidence of the advantage to the Royal Navy of acquiring the national flagship" and that the initial expenditure of around £250m, combined with the £20-30m a year running costs and providing a crew, would pile extra pressure on the senior service.