Iain Duncan Smith warns ministers it would be ‘astonishingly inept’ if they allowed Chinese ‘super embassy’ to be built near City of London after planning application was rejected by local council

  • Sir Iain Duncan Smith warns ministers against allowing Chinese ‘super embassy’
  • Plans for huge new diplomatic HQ have been rejected by Tower Hamlets Council
  • But Government has the chance to ‘call in’ planning application for historic site 

Sir Iain Duncan Smith has warned ministers it would be ‘astonishingly inept’ if they allowed a Chinese ‘super embassy’ to be built after plans were rejected by a local council.

The former Tory leader, a prominent critic of China, put pressure on the Government not to give the go-ahead for the huge diplomatic headquarters on an historic site near the City of London.

Tower Hamlets Council on Thursday refused to grant planning permission for the proposed redevelopment of the former home of the Royal Mint. 

But Michael Gove, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary, and Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, have a six-week window in which to decide to ‘call in’ the verdict – which would take the final planning decision out of the hands of the local authority.

The Government has already confirmed that Mr Gove has received a request for the planning application to be called in and is currently considering it. 

China bought the Royal Mint Court site in 2018 for £255million with the aim of moving its embassy eastwards across London from its current Marylebone location. 

But locals have campaigned against the plans due to the historic nature of the former Royal Mint site.

They have also expressed fears the site would be turned into ‘a fortress’ with increased surveillance by cameras leading to a loss of privacy for those living nearby, while they have suggested it could also become a terror target.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith has warned ministers it would be ‘astonishingly inept’ if they allowed a Chinese ‘super embassy’ to be built

China wants to create a huge diplomatic headquarters on an historic site near the City of London

China bought the Royal Mint Court site in 2018 for £255million with the aim of moving its embassy eastwards across London from its current Marylebone location

Sir Iain called on ministers not to go against the Tower Hamlets Council decision as he renewed his criticism of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s approach to Beijing. 

‘We’ve got this new embassy complex that they want to build,’ he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday show.

‘The biggest embassy complex in the whole of Europe, right in the heart of Europe right next door to the City of London.

‘You know, really astonishingly inept if the government now allows the appeal to go through.’

Sir Iain also delivered a fresh tirade against Mr Sunak’s call this week – made by the PM at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London’s Guildhall on Monday night – for Britain to pursue ‘robust pragmatism’ in dealing with China.

He added: ‘I’m deeply disappointed in my Government over this particular area.

‘The PM said during the summer that he thought that China represented a “systemic threat” and then recently he shifted that to “systemic challenge”.

‘The problem with challenge is it looks weak, and we’ve now got a policy which sounds like it could have come from Sir Humphrey in “Yes Minister”, which is “robust pragmatism”.

‘Now somebody can please tell me what “robust pragmatism” means?

‘It means nothing. Robust, but also pragmatic? They cancel each other out.’

Sir Iain has previously warned Mr Sunak he risks ‘appeasing’ China with his approach towards Beijing, as he drew a comparison to Britain’s relations with Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

China’s ambassador to Britain was hauled into the Foreign Office on Tuesday after a BBC journalist was beaten by police while covering protests in Shanghai. 

Zheng Zeguang has been summoned over the treatment of Ed Lawrence as he reported on local demonstrations against China’s zero-Covid strategy.

Those Tory MPs like Sir Iain who want the Government to take a tougher stance with Beijing have also hit out at China’s treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, the use of slave labour, crackdowns in Tibet and Hong Kong, and the oppression of protesters.

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