FIFA World Cup 2022

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 3:22 pm on 20th October 2022.

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Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs) 3:22 pm, 20th October 2022

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.