Qatar gave items to British MPs earlier than the World Cup | Qatar

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

The Qatari authorities has handed out items to MPs value £251,208 within the 12 months to October 2022, together with stays in luxurious lodges, enterprise class flights and horse racing tickets.

The worth of items from Qatar exceeded the quantity spent by the opposite 15 international locations whose governments donated to British MPs mixed. And that was greater than six occasions the £37,661 in items and hospitality given to MPs by the United Arab Emirates, the second largest overseas authorities donor.

Presents up to now 12 months additionally far exceeded these from Qatar in another yr for which information can be found, revealing how authorities have stepped up their efforts to appeal British MPs forward of the World Cup. Data present MPs declared round £100,000 in 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 bunch to “foster good relations between the UK and Qatar”. {Photograph}: Victoria Jones/PA

Transparency Worldwide mentioned it was ‘extraordinarily regarding’ that MPs have been accepting ‘1000’s of kilos of hospitality from overseas governments with questionable human rights information’ and that it might ‘go away the door open to undue affect”. Nonetheless, there isn’t a proof that any MP broke the foundations.

The Qatari authorities didn’t reply to repeated requests for remark.

In some instances, MPs who acquired items subsequently appeared to talk favorably of Qatar in parliamentary debates or deflect consideration from points that the authorities have been eager to downplay.

Throughout a debate on 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’, gave 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, kicked off the talk on October 20 and later shared movies of it on Twitter with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “Sport has the facility to vary the world.

Data present he acquired £9,323 in donations from the Qatari authorities in 2022, for a five-day journey in February to fulfill officers alongside different members of the Qatari All-Social gathering Parliamentary Group (APPG), and for a travels a month later to attend the political occasion of the Doha Discussion board.

Conservative MP David Mundell
Tory MP David Mundell has accepted hospitality value £7,473 from Qatar for a visit final October. Images: Leon Neal/Getty Photos

APPG Deputy Chairman David Mundell, who accepted hospitality value £7,473 from Qatar for a visit final October, additionally contributed to the talk, addressing a priority raised by one other MP relating to LGBTQ rights in Qatar saying that critics ought to “focus their energies on coping with LGBT points in skilled soccer within the UK” – “Relatively than simply declaring points that will come up in different international locations, we all the time should deal with the problems at house,” he mentioned.

Mundell, who was the openly gay Conservative Prime Minister, additionally gave an interview to the Qatar Public Company this yr wherein he criticized “baseless” media protection of a report on Qatar’s document on staff’ rights. He didn’t point out the coverage of the Worldwide Labor Group discovery that “regardless of the steps taken” on staff’ rights in Qatar, there have been “gaps in implementation”, nor its previous to research which revealed that fifty staff in Qatar misplaced their lives in 2020 alone, with greater than 500 critically injured and 37,600 minor to reasonable accidents.

Each MPs made reference to their declared pursuits through the parliamentary debate. Mundell didn’t reply to requests for remark. A press release from Qatar’s APPG, offered through Cairns, mentioned the group has performed an ‘energetic position in inspecting all elements of the UK-Qatar relationship, together with human rights. folks, ethics, training, power and infrastructure”.

Particulars of Qatar’s donations have been revealed via evaluation of declarations within the Members’ Register of Pursuits. Data present that 34 MPs declared 40 donations from Qatar within the yr to October 2022. Of those, 22 MPs have been Conservative, seven Labour, three SNP and two Independents.

Many of the cash was spent on journeys to Qatar for Qatar APPG members to fulfill with ministers and authorities officers.

Throughout two journeys, in October 2021 and February 2022, British MPs visited Qatar to debate points resembling “World Cup preparations, staff’ rights reform and bilateral relations”, in addition to Qatar’s “humanitarian and political response to the Afghan disaster”. , the transparency logs are displayed.

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

The Qatari Overseas Ministry paid for the all-inclusive excursions, sometimes spending between £7,000 and £8,000 per particular person on flights, lodges and meals over a seven-day journey.

A supply instructed the Observer that MPs on one journey have been accommodated in luxurious lodges with “huge swimming swimming pools” and traveled enterprise class on Qatar Airways. Some MPs have been taken on a camel race and had a non-public dinner with officers concerned in delivering the FIFA World Cup.

They mentioned MPs gave officers “two barrels” on points together with LGBTQ rights, however have been “elegant and charming” and their objective was clear: “To enhance Qatar’s repute on this planet “.

“Specifically, they wished to minimize criticism of their position within the World Cup,” the supply mentioned. “I got here again simply as essential. Possibly a pair would have been nicer.

The APPG didn’t touch upon claims that civil servants have been handled luxuriously or say which authorities officers the MPs met throughout their travels, however mentioned the visits “included conferences with a variety of ministers and NGOs, together with the UN-sponsored Worldwide Labor Group”.

Qatar’s Ministry of Tradition and Sports activities, in the meantime, paid two MPs to attend the Qatar-sponsored Goodwood Pageant in Sussex in July, based on transparency information. The MPs have been Sir John Whittingdale OBE, the Tory MP and former Tradition Secretary, who took a plus one and mentioned the present was value £1,200, and Nigel Evans, Tory MP for Ribble Valley. It was the third donation for Evans from Qatar in 9 months. Neither Whittingdale nor Evans responded to requests for remark.

The outcomes will gasoline considerations about backdoor lobbying makes an attempt by overseas governments within the UK. Different international locations which have donated to MPs up to now 12 months embrace Bahrain, Somaliland, Azerbaijan, San Marino and Kuwait. Lobbying by China and Russia has already been uncovered.

Rose Whiffen of Transparency Worldwide mentioned “too many MPs” have been exhibiting “poor judgment” in accepting items from overseas administrations. She added that they should “critically take into account whether or not it’s applicable to just accept these sorts of journeys – not simply whether or not they’re permitted to take action”. Chris Bryant, Labor MP and chairman of the Home of Commons Requirements Committee, has warned that parliament is “significantly susceptible” to overseas affect, saying throughout a debate in December that “we should concentrate on the hazard that ‘a overseas energy would possibly search’. stress… via the again door.

Bryant is one in all a number of MPs who accepted an in-kind donation from Qatar within the type of an all-expenses-paid journey, however instructed parliament in Could he regretted doing so. He argued for American-style guidelines that prohibit members of Congress from accepting donations and items from overseas governments. All abroad visits are paid for by Congress.

Relations between the UK and Qatar have grown stronger lately. In Could, 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 jobs within the UK and was value as much as £10billion.

A couple of days later, the Ministry of Protection introduced that it will fund counter-terrorism coaching for the Qatari military forward of the World Cup. All through the match, the RAF and Royal Navy will present air and sea help.

Final week Overseas Secretary James Cleverly got here beneath hearth after telling gay football fans they should be respectful in Qatarwhich criminalizes their sexuality after they attend the World Cup.

Talking on LBC’s Nick Ferrari breakfast present, he steered they present “a little bit of flexibility and compromise” and be “respectful of the host nation”. Labor referred to as the feedback “shockingly tone deaf”.

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