Navy chief's anger over plans to scrap vital repair ship

MINISTERS have come under fire in the Lords over the planned sale of the navy's only vessel for repairing damaged warships at sea.

Defence minister Earl Howe said RFA Diligence was ‘obsolescent’ and no longer essential to the navy’s needs.

At question time, he assured peers that its withdrawal from service would not have a ‘material effect on the support provided to the fleet’.

But former First Sea Lord, Lord Alan West said the news ‘filled him with despair’ after ministers said only last spring that Diligence was invaluable to the Senior Service.

He said: ‘We are not fulfilling tasks our nation would expect us to fulfil. There is insufficient money to run the naval programme today and we are creating an ever-bigger black hole.’

RFA Diligence was given two re-fits since 2012 costing more than £28m.

Lord Howe said there were ‘acute cost pressures’ on the navy but it had a range of ways of delivering operational maintenance and repairs to the fleet.