He said the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee needed to be made extra-special to avoid it being overshadowed by the Olympics.

In a private letter to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, Gove suggested replacing the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Government spending cuts due to the recession forced the Royal Navy to scrap several of its ships.

Gove said: “In spite, and perhaps because of the austere times, the celebration should go beyond those of previous jubilees and mark the greater achievement that the diamond anniversary represents.”

He added: “Events such as proms and the party at the palace organised for the Diamond Jubilee, and street parties, although excellent, are transient.

“It would be appropriate to do something that will mark the significance of this occasion with fitting ceremony.

 “My suggestion would be a gift from the nation to her Majesty; thinking about David Willetts’s excellent suggestion of a royal yacht, and something tangible to commemorate this momentous occasion.”

But his idea has seen a backlash from Labour opposition MPs.

Deputy chairman of the Labour Party Tom Watson said: “We’re all looking forward to the diamond jubilee. The significance of the occasion should be celebrated across the country.

“But Michael Gove has shown he is out of touch with this proposal.

“When school budgets are being slashed, parents will be wondering how Gove came even to suggest this idea. This is not the time to spend £60m on a yacht,”

Gove said that a private donor should be found if public funds were not available.