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Revealed: Qatar has spent £440,000 hosting British MPs since 2012

openDemocracy analysis reveals extent of Qatar’s charm offensive in the decade leading up to the World Cup

Jenna Corderoy
Jenna Corderoy
18 November 2022, 10.49am

Ionel Sorin Furcoi / Alamy Stock Photo

The Qatari government spent nearly £440,000 buttering up British MPs in the decade leading up to the World Cup by hosting them in the repressive gulf state, openDemocracy can reveal.

Over the last ten years, MPs have made at least 78 trips to Qatar that were funded by the country’s Foreign Ministry or its embassy in London, including 15 trips costing nearly £76,000 in 2022 and 23 trips costing more than £173,000 in 2021.

The country’s guests have included Conservative minister Nadhim Zahawi, backbencher Rory Stewart and Labour’s Chris Bryant.

In total, since 2012, 63 MPs have accepted all-expenses-paid trips funded by the Qatari government, which usually includes free flights, accommodation, meals and internal travel.

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Analysis of MPs’ registers of financial interests by openDemocracy comes ahead of the World Cup which starts this weekend, hosted by Qatar. The country was announced as the host for the tournament in 2010.

Qatar has come under heavy criticism for its repressive laws and its track record of human rights offences.

Homosexuality is illegal in the country and LGBT+ people are arbitrarily arrested and detained. A report this week also claimed that gay Qataris had been forced to help authorities track down other LGBT+ citizens in order to avoid physical torture.

Qatar’s government has also been condemned for its treatment of migrant workers, who have been recruited in their tens of thousands to build stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup. 

Last year, the Guardian revealed that 6,500 migrant workers from Asia had died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup.

Despite this, British MPs have accepted a series of lavish trips to the country. This year alone, the Qatari state funded MPs’ trips, including a delegation of MPs from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Qatar.

The group said it intended to use the visit to meet ministers and discuss a range of issues including “World Cup preparations” and “workers’ rights reform”. 

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who travelled to the country last year as part of a delegation, later admitted during a parliamentary debate on foreign lobbying: “I wish I had not gone on that trip.” 

“I went as a guest of the Qatari government because I wanted to argue with them, really, about the way they intend to hold the World Cup,” he said. “I note that a large number of members have been taken to Qatar at great expense by the Qatari government over the past year. Is that appropriate?”

Bryant has since criticised other politicians for travelling to the country and said: “I don’t think it is safe for gay football fans to go to Qatar.”

Registers of financial interests show that MPs have made at least 95 trips to the country since 2012, with a value of almost £483,000. While the vast majority of these were funded by the Qatari state, some were paid for by organisations like the Qatar Foundation, a non-profit organisation that was founded by Qatar royals.

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