Welsh prime minister criticized for ‘lavish’ World Cup hotel stay paid by Qatar | Mark Drakeford

The Welsh prime minister has been criticized for staying in a five-star hotel paid for by the Qatar government during his trip to the football World Cup.

Mark Drakeford and the Welsh economy minister, Vaughan Gething, stayed at the Ritz-Carlton as guests of the host nation.

The Liberal Democrats claimed accepting the hospitality may have undermined the Labour-led government’s commitment towards human rights and called on it to donate the equivalent cost of the stays to charity.

Amnesty International expressed concern that politicians who enjoyed lavish hospitality could feel compromised when it came to raising human rights issues.

At the time of the trip, Drakeford defended his decision to travel to Qatar, arguing that citizens of Wales would have wanted him to be there and insisting it gave him a chance to raise concerns about human rights issues.

On Wednesday, the Welsh government confirmed that the Qatar government had paid for hotels for Drakeford, Gething and a number of officials.

It said it was part of a hospitality package offered to all delegates and traveling parties and had no influence on the approach taken by Welsh ministers to raise serious concerns with Qatari officials.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “The first minister and the economy minister visited Qatar to support the Welsh men’s football team as they took part in their first World Cup in 64 years.

“This was an opportunity to discuss trade and investment opportunities, meet with members of the Qatar government and the International Labor Organization to discuss worker rights, and to take part in cultural meetings to strengthen the links between the Qatar and Wales.

“The visit also was a chance to share our values ​​on human rights, LGBTQ+ rights, workers’ rights and political and religious freedom.”

The Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, Jane Dodds, said: “By accepting this gift, Mark Drakeford has potentially undermined the Welsh government’s commitment towards human rights, LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats will continue to call on Mark Drakeford and Welsh Labor to donate the equivalent cost of the trip to human rights charities who address the problems faced in Qatar.”

Plaid Cymru’s sport and international affairs spokesperson, Heledd Fychan, said: “Accepting hospitality risks undermining the commitment made by the Welsh government that they condemn the record of the Qatar government on workers safety and LGBTQ+ rights.

“It’s now essential that when the Senedd next meets, the first minister explains how he and the minister for the economy raised these important issues.”

Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of priority campaigns and individuals at risk, said: “It would be a cause of real concern if politicians were accepting lavish hospitality – at the World Cup or anywhere else – from foreign governments and then feeling compromised when it came to raise human rights issues.

“We repeatedly called on politicians and others with influence who attended the World Cup in Qatar to raise human rights issues with their hosts and with FIFA, and we would hope that Mark Drakeford and Vaughan Gething can show that they sought to do this.”

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