The Conservative grandee tore into the proposal for a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia as an unnecessary expenditure while the country seeks to get the public finances under control after hundreds of billions were spent to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if he thought spending £200 million on the new vessel 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.”
However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the proposed new vessel.
“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,” he said.
“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.”