“Radha Stirling & Peter Tatchell: MPs wined and dined by Qatari royals in £4,000 ‘freebie’”
The four members were hosted by an equestrian club with close ties to the state’s ruling family, whose record on human rights has been sharply criticised by campaign groups.
The ‘freebies’ were taken up during the five-day Qatar Goodwood Festival, which is regarded as one of the pinnacles of the flat-racing season, in the last week of July 2021.
The MPs were hosted by Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club, part of the wealthy Gulf state’s Ministry of Sport and Culture, and its UK embassy at the event in West Sussex.
MPs enjoyed thousands of pounds worth of hospitality from Qatar during the ‘Glorious Goodwood’ festival of horse racing. They enjoyed hospitality, accommodation and dinners, according to the official register of members’ financial interests.
One of the guests, Laurence Robertson, who represents Tewkesbury, declared hosting amounting to £1,650 for himself and his wife between Wednesday, July 28 and the following day. The couple enjoyed hospitality at the racecourse and at the estate’s country house and four-star hotel.
The other MPs hosted were Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, Nigel Evans and Mark Menzies.
The details have emerged after David Beckham was criticised for becoming the face of Qatar’s World Cup 2022 in a reported £150 million deal.
Qatar has been promoting its image ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell accused the state of ‘sportswashing’, where an entity uses major events to improve its image.
Mr Tatchell said: ‘Qatar seems to be using freebies as a way to soften up MPs and win them over in advance of the World Cup. It looks like a PR bid to minimise criticism over its poor human rights record. ‘I’m shocked that these MPs were willing to accept the hospitality of a dictatorship. This is the latest example of sportswashing by Qatar. ‘It is using sport to boost its reputation and distract attention from its abuse of women, LGBT people and migrant workers.’ Beckham drew flak last month after it was reported that he has become the face of the oil-rich state’s World Cup promotion. The former England skipper is said to have received assurances that fans will be allowed to display rainbow flags and women’s rights are improving in a country where same-sex relations are illegal. Nigel Evans was among four MPs hosted at the Qatar Goodwood Festival by the state’s equestrian club. House of Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle was among MPs who enjoyed hospitality courtesy of Qatar. Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Doha and Due Process International, said: ‘Qatar has invested significant funds into lobbying efforts aimed at the UK and into marketing the upcoming FIFA 2022. ‘Funds have been thrown at celebrities like David Beckham, media houses, academics and politicians. Qatar overall has been resilient to criticism over the years and that’s largely due to their economic contributions, but MPs, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and investors need to ensure they do not allow Qatar to whitewash their human rights record. ‘ Sir Lindsay, member for Chorley, was given guest passes for two people valued at £1,040, including hospitality, accommodation and dinner. Mr Evans, who represents Ribble Valley, and Mr Menzies, member for Fylde, received the same perks to the value of £700 each. The interests were all declared in the category of ‘gifts and benefits from outside the UK’. The club, which has its base at the state’s embassy in London, was established in the 1960s to develop Arabian horse racing and is described as a ‘government organisation’ on its Facebook page. The festival Qatar sponsors is known as ‘Glorious Goodwood’ and includes a ladies’ day and the King George Day between July 27 and July 31. Mr Evans and Mr Menzies also declared a trip to Qatar in October 2021, donated by the state’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as part of their work on the British-Qatar All-Party Parliamentary Group. The purpose was to meet ministers and officials to ‘discuss Qatar’s humanitarian and political response to the Afghanistan crisis, preparations for the world cup, worker’s rights reform and bilateral relations’. MPs financial interests have come under sharp focus in recent days, with a three-hour emergency debate about standards in the House of Commons on Monday. There is no suggestion that any of the MPs receiving hospitality from Qatar broke any rules. A spokeswoman for Sir Lindsay said: ‘All hospitality is declared in full and on time to the Registrar of Members’ Interests in accordance with the rules.’ Metro.co.uk has approached Mr Evans, Mr Menzies and Mr Robertson for comment.