Qatar lavished British MPs with items forward of World Cup | Qatar


Qatar has spent more cash on items and journeys for British MPs up to now 12 months than another nation, based on Observer evaluation that reveals the Gulf state’s lobbying efforts forward of subsequent month’s soccer World Cup.

The Qatari authorities made items to members of parliament price £251,208 within the 12 months to October 2022, together with luxurious lodge stays, business-class flights and tickets to horse-racing occasions.

The worth of Qatar’s items was larger than the quantity spent by the 15 different international locations whose governments made donations to British MPs mixed. And it was greater than six occasions the £37,661 in items and hospitality given to MPs by the United Arab Emirates, the second-highest overseas authorities donor.

The items for the previous 12 months additionally far outstripped these from Qatar in another 12 months for which data can be found, revealing how authorities ramped up efforts to allure British MPs forward of the World Cup. Information present MPs declared about £100,000 price of items and hospitality from Qatar within the 5 years to October 2021, however greater than double that within the final 12 months alone.

Alun Cairns
Alun Cairns, Conservative MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, has arrange a gaggle to ‘foster good relations between the UK and Qatar’. {Photograph}: Victoria Jones/PA

Transparency Worldwide mentioned it was “extraordinarily regarding” that MPs had been accepting “hundreds of kilos price of hospitality from overseas governments with questionable human rights data” and that this might “go away the door open to undue affect.” There is no such thing as a suggestion that any MP broke guidelines, nevertheless.

The Qatari authorities failed to answer repeated requests for remark.

In some circumstances, MPs who obtained freebies later appeared to talk favourably about Qatar in parliamentary debates, or to deflect consideration away from points that the authorities have been eager to downplay.

Throughout a debate about preparations for the World Cup earlier this month, Alun Cairns, who chairs an off-the-cuff parliamentary group set as much as “foster good relations between the UK and Qatar”, made a speech praising Qatar, together with “paying tribute” to its response to the humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan.

Cairns, Tory MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, initiated the controversy on 20 October and later shared movies of it on Twitter alongside a Nelson Mandela quote: “Sport has the facility to alter the world.”

Information present he obtained £9,323 price of donations from the Qatari authorities in 2022, for a five-day journey in February to satisfy officers alongside different members of the Qatar all-party parliamentary group (APPG), and for a visit a month later to attend the Doha Discussion board coverage occasion.

Tory MP David Mundell
Tory MP David Mundell accepted hospitality price £7,473 from Qatar for a visit final October. {Photograph}: Leon Neal/Getty Pictures

The APPG’s deputy chair, David Mundell, who accepted hospitality price £7,473 from Qatar for a visit final October, additionally contributed to the controversy, responding to a priority raised by one other MP about LGBTQ rights in Qatar by saying critics ought to “focus their energies on the dealing with of LGBT points in skilled soccer within the UK” – “Relatively than merely level out points which may come up in different international locations, we nonetheless have to give attention to points at residence,” he mentioned.

Mundell, who was the first overtly homosexual Conservative cupboard minister, additionally gave an interview to Qatar’s state-run company this 12 months wherein he criticised “baseless” media protection a couple of report into Qatar’s report on employee rights. He didn’t point out the Worldwide Labour Group’s discovering that “regardless of milestones being reached” on employee rights in Qatar, there have been “gaps in implementation”, nor its previous analysis which discovered that fifty staff in Qatar misplaced their lives in 2020 alone, with over 500 severely injured and 37,600 struggling gentle to reasonable accidents.

Each MPs referred to their declared pursuits throughout the parliamentary debate. Mundell didn’t reply to requests for remark. An announcement from the Qatar APPG, supplied through Cairns, mentioned the group performed an “lively function in scrutinising all features of UK-Qatar relations, together with human rights, ethics, schooling, power and infrastructure”.

Particulars of Qatar’s donations had been revealed by means of evaluation of declarations within the MPs register of pursuits. The data present 34 MPs declared 40 donations from Qatar within the 12 months to October 2022. Of these, 22 MPs had been Tory, seven had been Labour, three had been SNP and two had been impartial.

A lot of the cash was spent on journeys to Qatar for members of the Qatar APPG to satisfy ministers and authorities officers.

Throughout two journeys, in October 2021 and February 2022, British MPs travelled to Qatar to debate points together with “preparations for the World Cup, staff’ rights reform and bilateral relations”, in addition to Qatar’s “humanitarian and political response to the Afghanistan disaster”, transparency logs present.

A shopping mall in Doha on Saturday
A shopping center in Doha on Saturday. {Photograph}: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Pictures

The Qatari Ministry of Overseas Affairs paid for the all-inclusive visits, sometimes spending £7,000 to £8,000 per particular person for flights, lodges and meals throughout a seven-day journey.

A supply instructed the Observer that MPs on one journey had been put up in luxurious lodges with “huge swimming swimming pools” and travelled enterprise class on Qatar Airways. Some MPs had been taken to a camel-racing occasion and had a personal dinner with officers concerned within the supply of the Fifa World Cup.

They mentioned that MPs gave officers “two barrels price” over points, together with LGBTQ rights, however that they had been “slick and charming” and their purpose was clear: “To enhance Qatar’s popularity on the earth.”

“Specifically, they needed to minimise the criticism of their function within the World Cup,” the supply mentioned. “I got here again equally crucial. Possibly a pair would have been extra sympathetic.”

The APPG didn’t touch upon the claims that officers got luxurious remedy or say which authorities officers MPs met with throughout the journeys, however mentioned visits “embody conferences with a spread of ministers and NGOs, together with the UN Sponsored Worldwide Labour Group”.

Qatar’s Ministry of Tradition and Sports activities, in the meantime, paid for 2 MPs to attend the Qatar-sponsored Goodwood pageant in Sussex in July, based on the transparency data. The MPs had been Sir John Whittingdale OBE, the Conservative MP and former tradition secretary, who took a plus one and declared the present as being price £1,200, and Nigel Evans, Conservative MP for the Ribble Valley. It was the third donation for Evans from Qatar in 9 months. Neither Whittingdale nor Evans responded to requests for remark.

The findings will gasoline considerations about tried backdoor lobbying by overseas governments within the UK. Different international locations which have made donations to MPs up to now 12 months embody Bahrain, Somaliland, Azerbaijan, San Marino and Kuwait. Lobbying by China and Russia has beforehand been uncovered.

Rose Whiffen, from Transparency Worldwide, mentioned “too many MPs” had been exhibiting “poor judgment” in accepting items from abroad administrations. She added that they need to “critically contemplate whether it is applicable to simply accept these types of journeys – not simply whether or not they’re allowed to.” Chris Bryant, Labour MP and chair of the Commons Committee on Requirements, has warned that parliament is “significantly weak” to overseas affect, saying throughout a debate in December that “we should be cognisant of the hazard {that a} overseas energy may be in search of to foyer … by means of the again door.”

Bryant is among the MPs who accepted a donation in type from Qatar within the type of an expenses-paid journey however instructed parliament in Could that he regretted doing so. He has advocated for US-style guidelines which bar members of Congress from accepting donations and items from overseas governments. All visits overseas are paid for by Congress.

Relations between the UK and Qatar have strengthened lately. In Could, the then prime minister, Boris Johnson, introduced a “strategic funding partnership”, which is able to see Qatar spend money on key sectors of the UK economic system over the subsequent 5 years, together with fintech, life sciences and cybersecurity. Downing Avenue mentioned the deal would create new UK jobs and was price as much as £10bn.

Days later, the Ministry of Defence introduced it could be funding counter-terrorism coaching for Qatar’s navy forward of the World Cup. All through the match, the RAF and Royal Navy will present air and sea assist.

Final week, overseas secretary James Cleverly was criticised after telling homosexual soccer followers they need to be respectful in Qatar, which criminalises their sexuality, when attending the World Cup.

Talking on LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast present, he urged they present “a little bit little bit of flex and compromise” and be “respectful of the host nation”. Labour known as the feedback “shockingly tone-deaf”.



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