Tradition of 'Cockers P' dates back to Nelson's time and was a way to promote friendly relations

Cocktail parties aboard Royal Navy warships are to be scrapped to save money.

The tradition of holding a party when a ship visits a foreign port dates back to Nelson’s time and was seen as a good way to promote friendly relations.

Potential enemies were sometimes invited aboard, in the hope that a close-up view of the Navy’s might and readiness to fight would deflect any hostile intentions.

Scrapping ‘Cockers P’, as the parties are known in naval slang, is expected to save the Ministry of Defence between £50,000 and £70,000 per year.

This figure represents just a tiny fraction of Britain’s overall annual defence expenditure, which was budgeted at £30.7bn for 2009.

“It’s a damn shame that this important tool in British diplomacy is being discarded,” said one senior Royal Navy officer, “it does wonders for international relations and trade.”