Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 3:00 pm on 20th October 2022.
I beg to move,
That this House
has considered the UK’s plans and preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
It is a privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone.
The World cup is the biggest of global events and it will take place in just a few weeks’ time, so I thank the Backbench Business Committee for selecting this debate and for recognising its importance and status in terms of both international relations and supporting our fans from England and Wales who choose to attend the World cup. I hope to answer any questions and concerns that any fans may have. It is an extremely busy day here in Parliament. Normally this debate might well have been held in the main Chamber, but of course recent restrictions on parliamentary time have made that more difficult, so as I say, I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for recognising the importance and timeliness of this debate, and for scheduling it here in Westminster Hall.
I draw Members’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and remind colleagues that I have the privilege of being the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Qatar.
The fact that two UK nations will compete in a global event is a cause for great celebration by the whole country. This is the first time since 1958 that Wales has qualified for the World cup finals. We have been waiting 68 years for this occasion and I cannot overstate the enthusiasm with which Welsh fans are looking forward to the tournament. It was with regret that in the last qualifying game we had to knock out Ukraine, even though we felt the world supporting Ukraine in that contest. Ukraine had already beaten another home nation, Scotland. It would have been great if all four home nations had been at the World cup finals. We look forward to the next tournament in four years’ time and hope they all qualify. However, before we do that, let us try to ensure that we play our full part in securing the success of this tournament.
In Wales, we have 68 years’ worth of built-up passion. Our time has come and I would say that Qatar’s time has come, too. We are two small nations punching well above our weight in our respective fields of expertise. The Minister here today, the Minister for the Americas and the Overseas Territories, represents a border constituency, so he will fully understand where my loyalties lie. Whereas we agree on almost everything else, this is one area where we will definitely differ. I look forward to Wales’s victory on
This tournament is also noteworthy because it is the first World cup to be held in a Muslim state. The significance of that should not be underestimated. Sport has the capacity to bring people together, to share and to help us all to better understand nations and cultures, to challenge perceptions and to bring about positive change for all stakeholders. It was Nelson Mandela who said:
“Sport has the power to change the world.”
This is a World cup for the whole of the middle east. It is an opportunity for nations to come together and for cultures to share each other’s successes. Many fans will stay in nations that neighbour Qatar, meaning that World cup fever will extend well beyond Qatar. The FIFA Arab cup last year was a great success and influencer, and an excellent precursor to this year’s tournament.
The state of Qatar and the United Kingdom have a strategic relationship that goes back over centuries covering a range of policy areas. It was a privilege to attend the opening of the South Hook terminal in Pembrokeshire in 2009, when His Highness the Father Emir of Qatar and our late Queen opened Britain’s first liquefied natural gas terminal. This terminal now has the capacity to supply 25% of the UK’s gas needs. Some might say, “What great foresight those planners had!”
More recently, demonstrating a further deepening of relations, the annual Qatar-UK strategic dialogue has been central to our partnership. The last one was held in May, when further commitments were made on energy, education, regional security, humanitarian and development co-operation, science and innovation, trade and investment, and so much more. The breadth of the subjects under consideration demonstrates the strength of our relationship and how important each nation is to the other.
I want to use this opportunity to put on record and pay tribute to the support Qatar gave the UK and other nations in evacuating Afghan refugees just over 12 months ago, which to my mind has not been recognised as much as it should. Qatar’s support was of significant strategic importance to so many nations around the world seeking to support Afghan refugees.
The communiqué to the dialogue highlights that the World cup also played a part in those discussions. UK military capabilities are providing support on security and counter-terrorism and against any malign activity. In August, it was good to hear the Qatar ambassador to the UK announce that it will be British Typhoons, flown by UK and Qatar pilots, that will be ready to respond to any threat to the tournament from the skies.
Of course, as with any major event of this type, there is rightly considerable press interest in a range of challenges, particularly as so many people from so many cultures will come together in this global celebration. Everything from travel and accommodation through to treatment of fans, human rights, policing, LGBTQ+ issues and alcohol consumption is being questioned.
I declare my own entry on the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Obviously, concerns about attitudes towards LGBT+ issues in Qatar have been raised. However, does my right hon. Friend agree that holding the World cup in Qatar, thereby bringing together many people from around the world, from different cultures and different backgrounds, is actually an opportunity to move forward issues and attitudes there? Does he agree that many of the people who have voiced opinions on this issue should also focus their energies on the handling of LGBT issues in professional football in the UK? The number of footballers who are out is relatively small compared with the wider population. It is quite clear that there is still a major issue with homophobia in professional football in the UK. Rather than simply point out issues that might arise in other countries, we still need to focus on issues at home.
My right hon. Friend makes some extremely important points and I wholeheartedly agree with him. It goes back to comments I made earlier. I touched on what Nelson Mandela said—that sport can change the world—but I also highlighted, as my right hon. Friend underlined, the importance of bringing together cultures to better understand, influence and progress all stakeholders, so that that greater understanding and clarity move the agenda forward so that each nation respects, sees and supports human rights.
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend David Mundell and I recognise the part he is playing. He rightly makes an important point about UK sport and UK football in particular. It is alarming that so few players have come out, which leading football commentators have commented on recently. It would be helpful to create momentum in the UK that would lead to the recognition and understanding of the fantastic diversity that people who actively participate in sport share and enjoy.
The APPG has taken these issues very seriously, as you would rightly expect, Mr Hollobone, and as my right hon. Friend, who is deputy chairman of the all-party parliamentary group, will recognise. We have organised and participated in a series of meetings and engagements with relevant and interested parties. I pay tribute to His Excellency Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, Qatar’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, and his team for their open approach in seeking to answer the questions and concerns that we have raised. Whenever reports appear, the matters are raised with the ambassador and his political team—in a positive spirit, I underline. Our dialogue always continues so that we can better understand and influence each other’s thinking and background understanding, and develop a way forward.
In March, the all-party parliamentary group hosted a meeting in Parliament with His Excellency Hassan Al Thawadi—the secretary general of the supreme committee for delivery and legacy, which is responsible for bringing the World cup together—and the ambassador to the United Kingdom. Some 53 people attended. Members from all parties and both Houses, asked the most searching questions about some of the subjects that have been mentioned so far.
In May, the all-party parliamentary group on football, chaired by Mr Betts, hosted a meeting with the independent body FIFA Ethics and Regulations Watch. The group’s report on human rights, including LGBTQ+ and workers’ rights, was interrogated similarly by colleagues. In June, the all-party parliamentary group on Qatar and the all-party parliamentary group for sport, modern slavery and human rights held a joint session with the UN- sponsored International Labour Organisation. Its evidence, gathered from 2017 up to the present, was scrutinised in detail, and changes and progress since 2017 on those subjects that I have underlined was recognised.
Each of those sessions offered different perspectives and evidence, and reassured colleagues on many of the issues that have been raised. The International Labour Organisation in particular, with its wider remit, commented that Qatar is a major reforming nation within the region. That should be recognised as we have a constructive dialogue about other changes that we would like to see in the region, and about how the region would seek to influence the UK in terms of its understanding. I am aware of further speculation in the press and media, and look to the Minister and the Qatar authorities to offer further information and clarity on some of the issues that have been raised. Hosting an event such as the World cup is a fantastic privilege and it brings with it global attention. With that come further demands from the public and commentators alike.
On specific operational matters, it is good to see that the authorities have given reassurances that anyone with a ticket will have the right to accommodation. That is welcome, but fans seek further information on costs and available options. Many will travel with organised tour groups, and some from neighbouring countries, which will ensure that this is a World cup for the region. Fans will travel on shuttle flights between those nations. That will provide an additional complexity, but is a great way of bringing the region together to celebrate the hosting of the games. Cultural diversity in the region is also a relevant factor on which we must advise visiting fans.
Any movement into Qatar will require a negative covid test. Because of movement within the region during the group stages in particular, that could be a significant challenge for the host nation, wherever fans are staying. Further clarity on that would be helpful, because the host nation will face additional pressures in ensuring that fans can travel easily and freely within the restrictions that covid demands.
Alcohol is an interesting dimension of any tournament, and the World cup is no different. It will be even more complicated in a nation where the consumption of alcohol is more restricted than in many other countries. We are advised that supporters will be encouraged to visit the fan zones if they wish to consume alcohol. The policing and management of that will require a delicate balance. This is a challenge for whichever nation hosts such a major tournament, but police authorities in the western world are obviously more experienced in managing this type of situation. Any information from the Minister on how that will be managed would be helpful. I will, with the rest of the all-party parliamentary group, continue my dialogue with the Qatari authorities to bring better understanding, but the Government will of course have a distinct role in communicating and sharing the UK’s experience of managing the challenges that come naturally with the organisation of any such large event.
I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I am also vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Qatar. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is important that, as well as alcohol, mental health issues are taken into consideration? When large groups of people travel anywhere, some of those individuals will have mental health issues, so the ability to understand and provide adequate support, should it be needed, is important. Sport is fantastic for both physical and mental well- being, but some individuals who have mental health difficulties will need support. There has for a long time been stigma around mental health issues in the UK, but I think understanding of them is progressing right across the world, including in Qatar, and we would like to know a bit more about the types of support that may be provided.
I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for raising those questions, which I know she has raised with the Qatari authorities, among others. It is also fair to say that the UK’s approach to and understanding of mental health has progressed significantly in recent times. I remember from a debate in the main Chamber that there was once an old rule whereby any parliamentary colleague with a mental health challenge was effectively debarred from contributing to debates. That highlights how the UK has progressed in our time—although that rule could theoretically still exist in statute.
As we have already said, given our different cultures, there will be different pressures on different travelling fans, and perhaps, if a team is knocked out earlier than expected, on different supporting groups. That may well be a challenge, but I do not mean to be flippant about the serious issues raised by the hon. Lady. Her points go along with the delicate balance in managing a difficult situation—be it because of alcohol consumption or personal challenges—and how best to share our experience, learn from the experiences of others, and ensure that those sorts of issues do not become dominant because of a lack of understanding by those running events. She is ahead of the curve by highlighting the importance of mental health support.
My right hon. Friend raises the issue of alcohol consumption. It is obviously very important that we understand how fan zones will work and how alcohol will be consumed, but another related issue is the cost of alcohol. There were some undertakings on a maximum price that could be charged for a pint of beer. Is the Minister—or, perhaps, my right hon. Friend—aware of that cost and whether it will be enforced? Although it pains me that Scotland are not participating in these World cup finals, I would not want Welsh and English friends to be deprived of a pint of beer because of cost alone.
My right hon. Friend makes an extremely important point—he may as well have read the next line of my speech. The cost of alcohol and the cost of accommodation really matter and will be a concern for the many people who will travel. The more information that can be provided, the more people will be able to plan, budget and recognise how long they can stay based on the relevant costs. He underlines his regret that Scotland will not be there, but I am confident that, when it comes to the home nations, all Scottish supporters will be supporting Wales at the World cup.
Policing is also relevant, particularly for public displays of affection, which I recognise are not part of the local culture. However, managing that will be a challenge, and it builds on the sensitivities I touched on earlier. It is worth underlining that managing the challenge is of particular concern to the LGBTQ+ community, as my right hon. Friend mentioned earlier. I believe that how delicate situations are policed needs considerable thought, experience and expertise.
The all-party parliamentary group was reassured by the Secretary-General at our meeting in March. He said that everyone was welcome and that it was their responsibility—meaning that of the authorities—to ensure that everyone feels safe. Any information on how that will be achieved will be welcome. From conversations with the ambassador and other officials, I am grateful for their reassurances. However, I underline that policing support will be provided from a number of nations. That is entirely normal for large-scale tournaments, but communicating the strategic aims and wishes to officers on the ground will also be relevant. If an officer on the ground comes from a different culture but has not fully understood the strategic decisions taken to be sensitive and supportive and manage the issues around alcohol, mental health challenges and the real concerns of the LGBTQ+ community, the response will take a lot of skilled action. It would be helpful to know if the UK has provided any support and intelligence to help Qatar achieve the great success that it wants.
From the start, Qatar has opened up its plans to so many nations, and the UK has played a significant part in that planning, from architecture to supporting policing, counter-terrorism and construction. We all want to see this being a great success and not only on the pitch, as I am sure it will be when highlighting the potential of an England-Wales final. This really matters to the region and the best influence it can have there is to celebrate different cultures, recognise diversity and move understanding in all quarters in a positive direction.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I wish to thank Alun Cairns for securing this very important debate. I know that people in Enfield, Southgate and across the country are looking forward to next month’s World cup and I am no different. I will be cheering on England and hoping that Wales do well too. I live in hope that the tournament is as successful—if not more—for the three lions as in 2018, when we reached the semi-finals and the Southgate tube station in my constituency was temporarily renamed to pay tribute to Gareth Southgate. I will be the first to lobby Transport for London for the same treatment if we bring football home in December.
Of course, this is no ordinary tournament. It cannot be business as usual for the UK Government as we prepare for the tournament next month. We cannot avert our eyes from the problems in Qatar and the controversies surrounding its bid to host the 2022 World cup. On this side of the House, we will not be attending the tournament in person. I have received invitations, as I know other colleagues have, but to be clear, we will watch the World cup but will not be going. Dozens of construction workers have been killed putting this tournament on, and it is our view that we would be doing them a huge disservice if we turned a blind eye and did not use the World cup to campaign for stronger workers’ rights internationally, especially for migrant workers.
The eyes of the world will be firmly fixed on Qatar over the next few months and that provides us all with an opportunity to shine a light on the situation in the country and across the region. It is right that Qatar has faced intense criticism from human rights groups, international trade unions and labour organisations over the treatment of migrant workers. The Guardian newspaper reported in 2021 that 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since 2010. The International Labour Organisation has said that 50 workers died and 500 were severely injured during 2020. There are also serious concerns about the kafala system, which requires workers to have the permission of their employers to change jobs, leave the country and renew residency permits allowing them to work and live in Qatar. By its nature, it gives employers substantial power and clearly leads to the exploitation of workers.
There are other issues surrounding delayed or reduced salaries, which put workers at risk of forced labour. There are barriers to obtaining justice for abuses, and the prohibition of migrant workers from trade unions. However, it is true that Qatar has made progress and we welcome the improvements that have been made on workers’ rights, including steps to dismantle the kafala system in 2020 with the introduction of new labour laws, meaning migrant workers no longer need their employer’s permission before changing jobs.
In 2021, Qatar became the first country in the Gulf to implement a minimum wage for workers, regardless of nationality or occupation. Reforms have also ensured protection from heat stress, and there have been efforts to enable the right to organise and discuss grievances with employers, but we remain concerned about the implementation of those reforms. Human rights organisations are still worried about the imbalance between employers and workers in Qatar, with reports that many migrant workers still fear lodging complaints.
Although steps have been taken to dismantle the kafala system, workers continue to face challenges in changing jobs, with 100,000 requests to change jobs between October 2020 and October 2021 rejected. It is clear that while progress has been made, the work cannot stop here. Indeed, as the tournament nears and there is less construction work, the wellbeing of workers in other areas of the economy is also of concern, including the hospitality and service industries, such as those working in hotels, security workers, cleaners, drivers and cooks.
More widely, we know that migrant workers have faced exploitation in Qatar, and there is real fear that the situation will worsen significantly as the world and the World cup move on. Progress cannot stop when the spotlight of the World cup ends in December. Next month’s World cup means that the LGBTQ+ fans in my constituency and across England and Wales face the grim prospect of putting up with the tournament being played in a country where their sexuality is criminalised.
I hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but does he not agree with me that there are serious issues with professional football here in the United Kingdom in respect of accepting people like me from the LGBT+ community? There are many issues to be dealt with in football more widely, rather than simply just the situation in Qatar.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. There are issues within our own game with footballers coming out as gay or LGBTQ+. That is an issue for sport across the UK and beyond. However, the point I am making is about supporters and the experience that they might have in Qatar, where it is a criminal offence to be gay. There are nuances in that, but I take the point and we need to do a lot more with the UK game to make sure that professional footballers and other sportsmen and women feel confident and able to come out.
On sexuality being criminalised, it is not fair and it is not right. Football is for everyone and fans should not fear that they cannot support their team freely and be who they are. We should show pride in making that point at the World cup. As previously, it will be our footballers leading from the front. In Qatar they face a tournament underscored by human rights. It is great that England and Wales, alongside the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Switzerland will join together and support the OneLove campaign during the World cup, symbolised by a distinctive OneLove armband worn by the team captains during the tournament.
For LGBTQ+ fans, the Foreign Office must continue to engage with Qatari officials to ensure that their safety is of paramount importance and that there are clear reassurances that it is safe for LGBTQ+ fans to visit the World cup. Unfortunately, I know that the majority of England and Wales LGBTQ+ fans will simply stay away from the tournament due to serious concerns about their safety.
More widely, it is vital that the UK continues to push for human rights to be upheld for all citizens, irrespective of their gender, sexuality, religion or other belief. That is not just an issue in Qatar; it is an issue across the region and it is important that we continue to raise concerns where possible. Standing up for human rights should be a fundamental tenet of our foreign policy. The UK and Qatar continue to enjoy a longstanding and productive relationship in defence, gas and other industries, as the right hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan eloquently described in his speech. We must use that relationship to ensure that difficult questions are asked and those important issues are always on the agenda.
I ask the Minister what efforts the UK has taken, and continues to take, to hold the Qatari Government to account following the deaths and ill treatment of migrant workers in Qatar? Will the Minister commit to ensure the progress that has been made in Qatar is not forgotten when the tournament ends in December? There must be a legacy of scrutiny from the World cup. Finally, on the issue of LGBTQ+ rights, will the Minister outline the support that has been provided for fans travelling to Qatar for the World cup? Will he ensure that the concerns of the LGBTQ+ fans are raised with his counterparts in Qatar?
Football has unique way of bringing people together. We saw that over the summer with the lionesses and the Euro championships in England. I am sure that we will see that again during the World cup in Qatar. Amid all the football that will come our way next month, we cannot pretend it is a typical tournament. We must continue to raise our concerns; they are the things that we cannot celebrate in Qatar.
I thank my right hon. Friend Alun Cairns for securing this debate. I thank Bambos Charalambous, who I know is a keen football fan, for his contribution—I hope we have cause to put into practice his suggestion for Enfield, Southgate.
I start by doing something that I am sure we will all agree with, but we have not done yet, which is to pay tribute to Sir David Amess as we pass the first anniversary of his absolutely tragic death—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] He was a corridor friend of mine for a long period as neighbours, and a friend throughout my parliamentary career; I absolutely cherish his memory—I know everyone in this Chamber who knew him does too. I also cherish the tireless dedication that he showed to his constituents and his country. He was a passionate advocate for UK-Qatar relations. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan, and the entire APPG, carry on his ethos. I thank them for pressing the issues constructively, but not unsparingly, with an ally. These are very important matters.
We have covered a gamut of matters, and I am going to talk about all of them. In the two contributions we have had so far we have had the question of the treatment of LGBT+ people, as well as the question of mental health, raised by Dr Cameron. There have been issues raised about the price of alcohol, public displays of affection and the level of UK support.
When I had the opportunity to travel to Qatar with Sir David Amess, he was at the forefront of raising those issues. The points that Bambos Charalambous has made about the Guardian article and the concerns about the LGBT+ people—Sir David was raising those issues at the highest level. There was no holding back; he wanted to be a critical friend because we want Qatar to move forward on those issues, not sweep them under the carpet.
That is exactly right. It was very much in his nature to be warm and friendly, but also to tell people hard messages that they did not necessarily want to hear—albeit in his extremely engaging way.
This debate is timely for two reasons, and it demonstrates the cross-party interest there is in the forthcoming World cup. In the Foreign Office, our lead Minister for the middle east is Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon. I am acting as his proxy, but it is a great pleasure for me to respond on behalf of the Government and pick up all of the points that have been raised.
Of course, our priority is the safety and security of all British nationals who will be travelling to the tournament. I weep that the Scots are not involved and I am very sad that the Northern Irish are not involved, but I am thrilled and delighted that the Welsh are after 68 years. What a moment; it is absolutely fantastic. That safety and security emphasis includes, of course, working closely with the Qatari authorities that are ultimately responsible for that, and for ensuring British nationals know what to expect, what is expected of them when they visit and how to get assistance. Of course, there is a lot of good practice already in place from previous major tournaments, particularly Russia in 2018. That includes the importance of close co-operation with partners, such as the football associations and supporters’ representatives.
Every event is unique, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan is right to say that this will be the first-ever World cup held in the middle east. It is also the first-ever hosted by a Muslim nation and the first to be largely city based—in what is our winter but a more temperate time for them—so the Government have adapted our plans accordingly.
There has been close engagement on security with Qatari authorities, as the House might imagine, on various aspects of the preparation—particularly in supporting the delivery of a safe and secure championship. The UK police are offering support and advice in relation to fans, and have travelled to Qatar to build relationships and share their professional experience and knowledge. Many Members will be aware that the UK has a lot of experience in football-related policing, and our police typically deploy to overseas tournaments for that reason. At the same time, the Ministry of Defence will be supporting Qatar with military capabilities in relation not just to the much-travelled and advertised joint Typhoon squadron but to counter-terrorism, even more relevantly, which remains a threat—particularly at an event of this magnitude and profile.
Consular preparations are going on, as one might expect. The UK Government recognise that aspects of such tournaments can pose problems for fans—we have had several mentioned already, such as public displays of affection—from local laws and customs to geography and travel requirements. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is therefore implementing a range of targeted communications to provide England and Wales fans with practical advice and keep problems to a minimum. There is a dedicated World cup section in the travel advice we offer for Qatar, and the Government advise anyone attending to read that and sign up for email alerts so they can stay on top of developments.
Hon. Friends and colleagues will be pleased to know that the UK Government have today announced their six top tips for travelling fans to follow, supported by both the England and Wales managers. At the same time, there has been close engagement with Qatar on topics relating to the fans themselves. The one that has been first and foremost in the comments of all those who have spoken is the issue of LGBT+ visitors. I reassure colleagues that Ministers and senior officials have raised those issues at all levels, and continue to do so. The authorities are quite clear that their commitment is that everybody is welcome, and that they will respect that, but on our side we need to continue to encourage and press for the equal treatment of all fans and respect for individual rights not just in words, but in the action and the specific context of the matches as they take place, so that anyone of any background can go out and enjoy themselves.
When it comes to consular assistance, the FCDO will be offering an enhanced consular presence in Qatar throughout the tournament, and British nationals will have a 24/7 capacity to call the FCDO if they need help or advice. Of course, there are appropriate parallel plans in place for the wider region, because the Government are aware that many fans hope to base themselves elsewhere and travel into Qatar for matchdays. That is an important further preparation.
In terms of the legacy, which was raised by the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate, the World cup has allowed the UK Government to engage across much wider bilateral areas in recent years—on trade and culture, but also rights. One would expect engagement not merely in the more historically relevant areas of trade and culture, but in the one that is so salient now, which is rights. Qatar is a close partner and we must use this opportunity to strengthen that bilateral relationship, to broaden it in the way that has been described, and to make it more enduring. Lots of British companies on the trade side have played a notable role in World cup preparations, including in relation to football stadiums and many other aspects of them, and NGOs have been collaborating on legacy and inclusion themes. Only last week, Street Child United successfully hosted the fourth street child world cup in Doha. There will likewise be opportunities during the event to showcase what the UK has to offer.
As I say, I am rooting at one remove—and, tragically, only after the three lions— for Wales. My right hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan can tell me whether “Ymlaen, Cymru!” is the correct Welsh for saying, “Come on, Wales!” But I can say that we will be pressing this on behalf of the nation as a whole, provided that the matches do not yield any kind of contest between England and Wales until the final.
Of course, the other thing that has been rightly mentioned is workers’ rights, which must continue to be an important part of the picture. As I think colleagues will know, the UK absolutely welcomes the concrete steps rightly highlighted by the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate hitherto, including the introduction of a non-discriminatory minimum wage. But the priority, as he rightly says, must be the implementation and enforcement of those reforms—not just when the attention of the world is on Qatar, but even once those workers move off the radar and in future years to come. He may be aware that the UK’s migration and modern slavery envoy visited earlier this month for a range of meetings to discuss precisely how the UK can partner with Qatar and the International Labour Organisation to support further progress in 2023 as part of the legacy of the World cup.
In conclusion, we are in regular dialogue with host authorities and continue to ramp up the plans that have been set out. I hope, and I know all colleagues will hope, that come
I, too, pay tribute to hon. and right hon. Members for all their valued comments. It is extremely important to highlight and recognise the issues, and to look forward with optimism not only to the World cup, but to the legacy that it will leave. I will comment a bit more on the legacy in a moment.
My right hon. Friend the Minister was absolutely right: “Ymlaen, Cymru!” could be “Come on, Wales!”, as he described it. It could be “Forward, Wales!” or “Go, Wales!”, but I do not care how we translate it, as long as it results in a victory. The Red Wall has had a major influence on the optimistic spirit in Wales and the pent-up passion that we have been holding all these years since the last time we attended a World cup.
I am grateful to hon. and right hon. Members for their contributions, and there are a couple of points that I want to pick up on. Many commentators have mentioned the rights of migrant workers. I deliberately pointed to the ILO and its evidence, as mentioned by Bambos Charalambous, but I also encourage hon. and right hon. Members to look at the progress. That is not to say that we have arrived at a destination—nor has any other developed economy—because it is an ever-evolving situation.
There have been some press reports giving data and numbers that have not always been reconciled with an independent body, such as the ILO or FIFA Ethics and Regulations Watch. Therefore, to continue the positive momentum and an intelligent debate, it is always helpful to look at the data, rather than repeat historical data that may or may not be accurate because the evidence is not as obvious.
I encourage colleagues to participate actively in the APPG on Qatar so that we can continue to raise these issues in the positive spirit that both the Minister and I have mentioned. Because of our deep relationship, we can ask tough questions and receive strong answers, and that works in a positive way.
Finally, let me reflect on the comments on legacy. On sustainability, this World cup will be a model for international tournaments on such a scale. The sustainability efforts within it will set the new standard. Qatar has the resources, and has made them available, to make it the greenest tournament possible. There are also the stadiums, to which the UK will have contributed through various architectural design and construction efforts. My right hon. Friend the Minister highlighted the legacy that they will leave, as the stadiums can be rebuilt in some developing nations, and commitments have been made towards supporting football in developing nations as well. That draws attention to the ongoing momentum that sport can bring to the whole region within the middle east.
Qatar has been recognised by the ILO as having made some of the most significant steps and progress in some of the areas that it has been called up on. I hope that the momentum will continue in that way, as well as in developing the sport in Wales, the rest of the UK, the developing nations and everywhere else that values what sport can bring. That brings us back to where I started: Nelson Mandela’s quote that sport can change the world. Let us ensure that the World cup plays its part.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House
has considered the UK’s plans and preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.