Penny Mordaunt, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth North, is pushing for a vessel to provide a range of “medical, administrative, training, communication and logistic services”.

Mordaunt has suggested that private and/or research cash could be used to fund the vessel, alongside funding from the UK aid budget.

Writing here in a letter to the Prime Minister, the Paymaster General & Cabinet Office Minister said:

“Dear Prime Minister,

Britannia 2.0

I have always made the case that the only way to improve our national resilience and increase our capabilities is through partnership between public, private and third sectors. We have hundreds of brilliant not for profit organisations that make up the backbone of our national resilience and international humanitarian assistance, from map making, to medical care, search and rescue to veterinary training. If we used our ODA funding to better support such partnerships we could do so much more at home and overseas. As Secretary of State at DFID, and then at Defence, I made the case for better blending the ODA budget with private and social sector funding. Now as your civil contingencies minister and with responsibility for the cross-government ODA funds I will continue to make that case.

However, I also wanted to write to you in my capacity as the MP for Portsmouth North to ask you to, again, give consideration to such a partnership to increase our maritime assets. 

The challenges our nation faces will require us to have a greater maritime presence. From the need to protect our coastal waters, the threats we face to shipping, the desire to have a greater presence in certain parts of the world, to the massive workload of the Royal Navy. 

The unprecedented strain on the public purse we will face in the coming years requires us to make better use of the funds we do have, and lever in more from outside the public sector. 

We need a steady drumbeat in our remaining ship halls to make production viable and to keep industry investing in skills and innovation. It is a sovereign capability we cannot lose. We need a greater number of sea-time opportunities for the next generation of mariners to properly train and qualify, and we need more platforms so that we are not taking grey hulls off vital tasking to provide ships for humanitarian or diplomatic missions.

As I have discussed before, the concept of highly flexible vessels that could be part-funded from the ODA budget in partnership with private, research, commercial and charitable funds could help meet all these objectives. In 2018 whilst at DFID I scoped a UK Aid Maritime capability. This would be ODA eligible and, in effect, a floating DFID office. Our scoping work examined options to fund it and the specification. An initial survey of other Government departments and agencies indicated they could and would make use of such a vessel. We know that industry would also support as would a growing coalition of commercial and trade ventures, research organisations, shipbuilders and ship support companies, maritime training organisations and medical and health projects. These vessels have been rightly seen as a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia. Given the level of interest, it may be possible to generate income from the vessels. 

They would provide a safe and secure environment for personnel and resources to deploy close to operational areas. It could be a highly flexible facility that can provide a range of medical, administrative, training, communication and logistic services. It could undertake sustained operations or be redeployed to support locally dispersed initiatives. It could operate as a university hospital, rotating medical staff. For longer-term crisis, it would make us less reliant on less auditable local routes to provide relief. It would be able to deploy offshore in international waters, in geo-politically sensitive operational areas as well as our own coastal water should the need arise. It has the potential to become a centre for UK volunteering. It could be used in times of strain by the Royal Navy, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, border force or other agencies and departments, for example, the FCO for repatriation missions. 

It would be a UK flagged, controlled and auditable asset and should seek to be aligned with our shipbuilding ambitions.

The concept has attracted much support including from UK-Med, Britannia Maritime Aid and the Florence Nightingale Foundation whose nurses and midwives are keen to help.

Now more than ever we need to be smarter in how we use public funds to further our national interests. Retaining and developing shipbuilding and its support industries will be an important part of the levelling up agenda for many parts of the UK, and this initiative would keep some yards open. 

The potential of such a scheme is well established, but now the Government needs to develop those options. As long as this issue is seen through the prism of one department it will not become a reality. I ask that in your reprioritisation of ODA this and other concepts which have the potential to lever in further funds, create jobs, retain capabilities, and deliver on our ambitions for Global Britain are made a reality. A good next step would be to refit an existing vessel to test the concept.

Now is the time to be bold and creative. To think about what we actually need and how we can deliver on it with a reduced budget. 

I would be delighted if you would ask Ministers to take this forward and, although such vessels should always be deployed if Portsmouth were to be their base port!

Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP”

Download a copy of the letter here.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
64 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago

Well done Penny M.

Geoffrey Roach
Geoffrey Roach
3 months ago

Hi Daniele…simply put ..I couldn’t agree more. Two to operate globally would be absolutely brilliant, especially if paid for from from overseas aid. I see no reason why it shouldn’t and it would be another sign of the U.K. reaching out.

JohnG
3 months ago
Reply to  Geoffrey Roach

Yes, combined with Gavin’s two floating commando carriers and possible scope for more type 31s one could get quite optimistic. Although I’m sure the reality would make one gloomy again. That said Penny’s push is greatly appreciated.

Dern
Dern
3 months ago
Reply to  JohnG

I was under the impression the Gavi’s LSS was all but cancelled?

Paul.P
Paul.P
3 months ago

Ms Mordaunt is looking after her constituents. I think it would be a mistake to design and dedicate vessels to a specific role. Containerised fit out on one or two common hulls is the way to go for maximum hulls and operational mission flexibility. The trick is to decide on which roles can sensibly be combined in a single hull design. I don’t see a hospital ship / Royal yacht as the primary design choice being combined with any of LHD/ LPD/LSS/ FSS as a secondary function. That would be cart before the horse. We need to sort out how… Read more »

Andy P
Andy P
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Reading the letter, I’m not sure it should have a ‘grey funnel’, I’ve no problem with the UK building vessels that could be used for the tasks outlined and at first glance it could be a good use of the Aid/Development budget but its very blurred lines in its usage, crewing etc. i suppose if it was UK flagged it could be easy to put Naval Parties on but to be honest, I’d rather have some more RFA’s that could be used as large platforms in an area, they’re generally fairly lean manned and topped up by RN (and other)… Read more »

Paul.P
Paul.P
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

Yes, we need more RFA’s. Most folk would agree for example that selling the 4th Bay was a mistake. A hospital ship cum Royal yacht Britannia are tempting ego boosting proposals but we need hulls for go not show. Argus and the Bays aren’t pretty but the work they do is priceless. Type 31 is for showing the flag…big with lots of guns, just needs the bunting and you’ve got 5 Royal yachts.

Andy P
Andy P
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul.P

I’ve gotta say, I’m dead set against a Royal Yacht, if the Royals want one then they can pay for one. Its another massive drain on public resources and as we’ve seen before, its not going to be used ‘in anger’ for anything else as it could lead to bad PR.

I do like your idea of using the T31’s….. Put a couple of deluxe containers in the mission bay and Bob’s your auntie’s live in lover.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

So am I. And I’m a proud Monarchist.

Her Maj can afford it. And such is the self bashing in this country there’d be uproar from the usual suspects, even though other heads of state in other nations have their own planes and so on.
For the UK, not allowed.

So I’d hope this ship has more of a humanitarian side to it, paid for by DFID funds, but which has utility in war if needed.

Grubbie
Grubbie
3 months ago

The Windsors are notoriously tight, Prince Andrew proudly announced that he had never paid for drinks at Tramps. The Princess Royals yacht was abandoned and poorly maintained last time I looked.

Dern
Dern
3 months ago

Bring back HMS Vanguard.

Stephen
Stephen
3 months ago

Thumbs up to all that.

john melling
3 months ago

Hmm has someone opened the dusty 1998 Strategic Defence Review …

It was another scrapped idea 😉

And now look what gets dragged off the shelf 😉
Well, this idea has been floated about for god knows how long… and put back on the shelf

Even with the https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/a-uk-hospital-ship/

Will they actually do something this time around?

JohnG
3 months ago
Reply to  john melling

Here’s hoping. Its not exactly a big ask imho and Penny has put forward a solid and very reasonable proposal.

Steve R
Steve R
3 months ago

She’s definitely right about needing a steady drumbeat in our shipyards. We’ve been operating on famine or feast for so long now… well, not so much famine or feast now, as “famine or light snack.” We should apply this to all our major ship types, too. Type 45 replacement, the Type 4X, should be an order of 24 ships, one built every 18 months. Get 12 in service and sell the first one built to replace it with the 13th and so on, so there are 12 in service at any one time. The first batch would have a life… Read more »

JohnG
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve R

Agree with you whole heartedly. 24 type 45s, and type 26s and type 31s would give decent war fighting mass to the navy, but also as you quite rightly said, being aware of budgets and other items we would be lucky with an extra type 31 or a hospital ship

Steve R
Steve R
3 months ago
Reply to  JohnG

Well, my thoughts were 12 in service but selling the older ones and replacing with the newer ones, rather than midlife refits. Build them at a rate of a ship every 18 months, and each ship gets 18 years. By the time ship no13 is ready it can replace ship no1, which can then be sold. Ship no 12 would eventually be replaced by ship no24. Keeps the costs down with a large steady continuous order, and keeps the production line going for years. Also means that in times of crisis we could simply not sell a couple of them… Read more »

Trevor
Trevor
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve R

Who would buy these ships 2nd hand. Type4X and 26 would be powerful ships. Who would we trust them to? 31s less so.

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 months ago
Reply to  Trevor

Rather than just sell them on, how about a lease high arrangement. We lease them to a “friendly” country where they cover the operating costs, whilst we do all the in-depth maintenance. I think it would be a really good arrangement, as the country gets a near tier 1 ship without all the inherent costs. Whilst we provide the maintenance and support. For in-country relations it can only be a good thing. I’m sure countries like Chile and Brazil would jump at the chance at getting a nearly new T26 or T45 etc.

LongTime
LongTime
3 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Just remember Gents that you can’t take back what you’ve sold already. We sold Argentina 2 type 42s when we were friendly, used against us. We sold centurions tanks to Egypt and Iran, used against us and allies. I think Chile and Brazil might be the only countries that haven’t used our weapons against us or an ally in recent history.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
3 months ago
Reply to  Trevor

Rather then selling them. Use them for harbour training vessels or put them into a reserve status. The US is a good example of this. Nothing wrong with storing a vessel to cover emergency reactivation or to act as an attritional reserve. And before someone beats on about where would we store them etc. Are you mad? We are an island nation and have thousands of miles of coastline, inlets, harbours and docks we could store a fleet of vessels in.

Trevor
Trevor
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

No, I do not see that working. Building ships and mothballing them every 10 years…? , Surely better to sell if possible and bring in ‘improved’ batch 2s. And maybe have money for an extra one?

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve R

Hi Steve, I would generally agree with your steady drum beat approach, but one small word of caution. If you completely give up on major refit work you risk loosing the repair specialists – ship surveyors, etc. In which case first time anyone puts something significant through the side of one of your ships, you will struggle to repair her and bring her back into survice. Not a problem if a one off incident but another Falklands War could see with quite a proportion of your fleet tied up awaiting repair for an otherwise unnecessarily long time. Also, given Trevor’s… Read more »

David Barry
David Barry
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve R

Not a boffin will be along shortly to educate you… 😉

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  David Barry

Does he even visit UKDJ?

David Barry
David Barry
3 months ago

N_A_B he visits, 😉

John Hampson
John Hampson
3 months ago

I have been saying this for years. Reduce the Foreign Aid Budget to the same level as the EU average. (0.7% to 0.4% = £14bn to £9bn) This immediately releases £5 billion a year. Or just take the money from the reduced Aid budget. Use some of this money to build 2 Disaster Relief ships ( which might look a lot like Dual Helicopter/Amphib vessels.) Plus a Hospital ship ( which might help out if UK forces need). Build these vessels in Liverpool/Newcastle/Belfast. Operate these with RN personnel that are paid for from the Aid budget savings. As far as… Read more »

HF
HF
3 months ago

When the ‘Royal Yacht’ (at 6k tonnes a bit more than a yacht) wasn’t used in its stated role as a hospital ship in 1982 I was cynically unsurprised. It’s only recently that I learned that its role (the alternative being RFA Engadine) was as a command vessel in the post attack period of a major nuclear war to attempt to co-ordinate the recovery of the UK as part of the ‘Python’ (many other names) project. By the mid-60’s the vulnerability of Corsham (Turnstile etc) had been recognised and a more feasible survival plan had been developed. In addition floating… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  HF

Yes, that area is another interest of mine HF. Corsham, bunkers, and so on.

Other reports suggest HM would have been on it, tucked away in a Loch.

Far more survivable than known bunkers, especially Turnstile.

Always makes me wonder what the contingency is now. There is one for everything.

Cam
Cam
3 months ago

It would be really interesting to know what the plan is today, the falklands or some other far flung British island?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Cam

Doubt it.

According to rumours a det of the HCMR would initially remove the Queen to Windsor, if she was in London. From there who knows.
See Operation Candid for Cold War background on that. Or possibly a helicopter if one was available.

Even today it has never been clear even where the Royal Families collection of art and other treasures would go. A mine in north Wales called Blanaeu Festiniog ( spelling ? ) was involved for some things in the art galleries.

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 months ago

I know some national treasure were kept in the tunnels at Porthcurno during WW2.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Had not heard of that. All I go on is via two books that are, by now, quite dated. Beneath the City Streets by Peter Laurie, and War Plan UK by Duncan Campbell. Both written during the Cold War and both are good places to start with this subject.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
3 months ago

My uncle was the surveyer and valuation officer for the City of Westminster, according to him and he should know, there is more to London underground than meets the eye!

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

Hi Nigel. Would have loved to question him. Yes, the London Underground has several features linked to defence, some I’m aware of, others rumoured. Bull and Bush and the civil defence flood gates are two well known ones. Whitehall has lots of tunnels, some medieval, some World War 2, and others built in the Cold War. They link most of the government buildings, Telephone Exchanges, and MoD sites like Main Building and the Admiralty Citadel on Horse Guards. They start below Trafalgar Square and run south as far as the old Dep of the Environment site ( now the Home… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago

Sorry, Q Whitehall. No edit function.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
3 months ago

Hi Daniele,
All interesting stuff! As you can imagine, I was not told of what or where. That being said, it is my understanding that during the cold war period munitions where moved at night via the London underground system and quite possibly stored there too.

https://whoownsengland.org/2017/12/15/how-land-registry-data-reveals-londons-secret-tunnels/

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

Hi Nigel.

Thanks, I’ve long since seen that article. Confirms lots of what we already know and hints at more.

Cheers.

Rudeboy
Rudeboy
3 months ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

A lot of the rumours about the London Underground, secret lines and stations etc. have no foundation in reality. My brother is a senior rail industry bod. He’s spent years in the underground doing the Jubillee line extension, numerous refurbs, rolling stock replacement etc. He’s covered every inch of the network and pretty much everything ‘secret’ is online already and well known. There are no hidden lines or tunnels. He was interested to see if there were, but years of talking to drivers, engineers etc, who knew every square inch of the network like the back of their hand, convinced… Read more »

Cam
Cam
3 months ago
Reply to  HF

That was a very interesting read, thanks HF

Andy P
Andy P
3 months ago
Reply to  HF

Thanks for sharing the link HF, I love reading about our recent history (history generally really).

HF
HF
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

I have to say that it’s a subject that interests me a lot. I got that info from a Facebook group ‘Britain’s Cold War’. Mainly ex-service but not all, many of whom worked on the planning for these eventualities. Worth joining if it interests you.

Andy P
Andy P
3 months ago
Reply to  HF

Thanks for the pointer HF, I’m not a facebook kind of a cat. The Cold War was a fascinating time and I played my own small part towards the end of it. I’ve worked down 3 of the UK bunkers, Northwood, Whitehall and Pitreavie (as was) over the years, interesting if you like that stuff.

Every now and then an old ROC observation post comes up for sale, if I had the cash I’d love one. Some ‘man cave’ that would be.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

Whitehall? There are several there Andy.

DCMC, St Vincent Comcen, or “another” ? Can you say? Fine if not.

Andy P
Andy P
3 months ago

St. Vincent mostly although I’ve visited other bits.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

Cool.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  HF

Have you had a look at Subterranea Britannica also? I was a member briefly. Their website has lots of historical stuff but little beyond the Cold War.

Andy P
Andy P
3 months ago

I’ve seen some stuff on TV and online, there’s some great underground places in the UK. Even stuff like Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh intrigues me.

Don’t get me wrong, its more of a passing interest than a passion.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
3 months ago

Brilliant suggestion. Now DfID has been merged with FCO it makes sense from a single foreign policy objective as well

Steve
Steve
3 months ago

Unfortunately post Covid i can’t see this happening, but prior i think it would have been a no brainier.

No better way to increase friendship with our allies than be there helping, and be very publicly there, when they have a natural disaster.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago

This makes a lot of sense but I am getting a strong deja vu feeling here, which suggests no chance in hell this will happen. However, there are a number of geopolitical factors that might just swing it. Nationally there is a need to recover from Covid-19 and thins might a cost effective way to help at least one region of the country bounce back. It could also help to establish new ways of working with the non-profit sector, which will be needed to help pull us through the worst of the post Covid travails. Making better use of are… Read more »

Grubbie
Grubbie
3 months ago

Britannia 1.0 was never used as a hospital ship, even when the UK was at war. The US hospital ships have been laughable and useless in a humanitian crisis,such as the present one. If you want to spend money helping poorer countries, spend the money locally, where everything is much cheaper and you are not carrying a huge fixed overhead. This is why we steal the health care professionals from poor nations. Don’t airfreight heavy low value items such as plastic sheeting and tents to the areas of the world where they were produced in the first place. Emergency medical… Read more »

Andy P
Andy P
3 months ago
Reply to  Grubbie

You raise valid points Grubbie, while I can’t claim any deep knowledge of the subject, I’ve read a few things about the charity sector in Africa that makes you (well me anyway) question the point of a lot of it.

Its to the collective world’s shame that we don’t deal with a lot of these issues better than we do. Certainly in The West, its about throwing some money at the problem to make us feel that we’ve done our bit rather than actually helping to fix things.

Fedaykin
Fedaykin
3 months ago
Reply to  Grubbie

Bingo! Well done Grubbie, at least one here understands how stupid an idea a Hospital ship is and how effective use of the aid budget is local to where it is needed rather than on ships that will spend most of their time rusting alongside!

simon richards
simon richards
3 months ago

with the difid budget we could afford 2 hospital ships and use it to pay for littoral combat ship as well

Herodotus
3 months ago

With the foreign aid department being absorbed by the Foreign Office, expect its budget to be ‘rearranged’ shortly!

Herodotus
3 months ago
Reply to  Herodotus

Re the caption photo, I didn’t know that Keir Starmer was in the mob!!!

Herodotus
3 months ago
Reply to  Herodotus

Epaulettes should be worn on the shoulder, where next…the fly zipper?

Grubbie
Grubbie
3 months ago
Reply to  Herodotus

Trendy. I have often wondered about the awkwardness of ratings not being able to recognise senior officers from behind.

Herodotus
3 months ago
Reply to  Grubbie

In my day ‘Hello Sailor’ sufficed 🙂

Grubbie
Grubbie
3 months ago
Reply to  Herodotus

LOL, ofcouse sailor’s are famous for being able to recognise each other from behind

Albion
Albion
3 months ago

RFA Seacole would be an appropriate name.

Herodotus
3 months ago
Reply to  Albion

Yep…she could replace a certain statue in Bristol.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
3 months ago

I think a couple of disaster relief vessels and a hospital ship funded from international aid budget and built in UK is a great idea.