Steerpike Steerpike

Foreign Office U-turns on Truss’s legacy

What, if anything, will survive of Liz Truss’s legacy? Last week it was her childcare review that was dropped by ministers. And now, the Foreign Office (FCDO) has reversed her decision to end the department’s funding for the the Great Britain China Centre (GBBC), an executive public body established to support UK-China relations.

Just seven months ago, Mr S broke the news that the FCDO, then run by Truss, was ending its grant-in-aid funding in response to cuts in the development budget. A spokesman told Steerpike in June 2022 that ‘due to the current fiscal climate, including reductions to Official Development Assistance, we have made the decision to end FCDO grant-in-aid funding to the GBCC.’ This funding was worth £500,000 in grant-in-aid in the 2021-22 financial year, which helped cover 61 per cent of the centre’s budgeted core operating costs. Without this funding, some feared the GBBC could close.

But this evening, the Foreign Office has confirmed it has now U-turned on this decision. Future grant-in-aid funding will instead come from the FCDO’s non-ODA budget and is expected to be at a lower level than in previous years. An FCDO Spokesperson added that ‘the Great Britain China Centre works to increase HMG expertise, which together with its strong relationships in China, helps to support and develop UK interests.’ Insiders hope that the centre will play a role in bolstering the department’s expertise and China-facing capabilities via tailored courses and an understanding of how the Chinese system functions.

It’s a shift away from some of the rhetoric seen in last summer’s Tory leadership contest, when Rishi Sunak’s team released stark graphics declaring that ‘China is our number one threat.’ At least now our mandarins might know more about the nature of the threat they face…

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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