Foreign Secretary to go to Qatar for World Cup despite criticism on LGBTQ rights

The Cabinet minister gave the first confirmation on Monday that he will attend the football tournament controversially being hosted by the Middle Eastern nation

Published

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said he will travel to Qatar to attend the World Cup as he faced criticism for telling gay fans not to protest while visiting the country where homosexuality is illegal.

The Cabinet minister gave the first confirmation on Monday that he will attend the football tournament controversially being hosted by the Middle Eastern nation.

Labour MP Chris Bryant accused him of handing gay fans travelling to Qatar a “slap in the face” by telling them to comply with the local laws.

Anyone found participating in same-sex sexual activity in Qatar can be punished by up to seven years in prison, while there are also concerns about thousands of migrant workers having died in Qatar since it won the rights to host the World Cup.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his frontbench are boycotting the tournament – which begins on Sunday – over concerns for LGBTQ rights, the rights of women and for the workers who have lost their lives.

But Mr Cleverly told the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee: “I will be going.”

He said he would be attending “for a number of reasons”, adding: “Because I’m a foreign secretary and it is my job to ensure British visitors stay safe.”

He said he would be attending “for a number of reasons”, adding: “Because I’m a foreign secretary and it is my job to ensure British visitors stay safe.”

He added: “I’ve visited Qatar in the lead-up to the World Cup and when I go to the World Cup I will be speaking to the security authorities to ensure that English and Welsh and whatever other British fans who are going to the World Cup remain safe.”

Mr Bryant pressed the Foreign Secretary on whether he would advise gay fans to demonstrate while in Qatar during a heated exchange.

“No I wouldn’t,” Mr Cleverly said.

“When British nationals travel overseas they should respect the laws of their host country.”

Mr Bryant was adamant that no fans should be travelling to the tournament.

“I don’t think the World Cup should even have been given to Qatar because workers have been killed in building the buildings, migrants have been treated appallingly and gay men are regularly entrapped by police officers and then sent to prison – particularly if you’re a Muslim in Qatar you can face the death penalty,” he said.

“So I don’t think any of it should be happening but then you come out and say gay people should respect Qatar – it does feel a bit of a slap in the face.”

Mr Cleverly responded: “There will be LGBTQ+ football fans going to Qatar, I want them to be safe. Genuinely my question is, for those gay fans who want to go watch the football, what advice realistically should I give other than the advice I believe will keep them safe.”

He said he has told the Qatari authorities about “how important we feel that they should respect gay fans” and insisted “we’re very proud that we champion gay rights around the world”.

The World Cup kicks off on Sunday. England play Iran on Monday before Wales faces the USA.







Watch Live

How to watch GB News: We're live on TV on Virgin channel 604, Freesat 216, Sky 515, Freeview 236, YouView 236. Listen wherever you are on DAB+ Radio, or if you haven't alreday, just download the GB News App to watch live, get breaking news alerts and catch up with all our shows on the go!