Government of Qatar Debate

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Lord Vaizey of Didcot

Main Page: Lord Vaizey of Didcot (Conservative - Life peer)

Government of Qatar

Lord Vaizey of Didcot Excerpts
Thursday 20th January 2022

(5 months, 1 week ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Vaizey of Didcot Portrait Lord Vaizey of Didcot (Con)
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It is a great pleasure to follow my noble friend and to hear his views on the power of sport, which obviously he has vast experience of, and the impact that the World Cup will have on Qatar, where he also has a great deal of experience. I simply wanted to add, almost tangentially, some thoughts about culture and Qatar.

When I was the Minister for Culture many years ago, I supervised from our end the UK-Qatar year of culture, which I think was 2013, and I spent a great deal of time in that country. In fact, I randomly met Robert De Niro when I went to Qatar, which resulted in a diptel with the title “Ed Vaizey goes to Qatar. Robert De Niro’s waiting.” There is a cultural reference in there which I will leave noble Lords to work out.

I will get serious for a moment. There are two elements to the cultural links between the UK and Qatar that are worth emphasising. First, the Qatari Government have been very supportive of British culture. The emir and his wife supported a project in the British Library to digitise a great deal of records relating to Qatar and the Middle East, and they sponsored an exhibition at the V&A that highlighted Qatari cultural treasures. However, it is also interesting to note—this is where it is relevant to my noble friend’s remarks—that the Qatari Government and the emir have pushed forward the use of culture as a means of progress within the country of Qatar. They have built a state-of-the-art museum to show off cultural artefacts from Qatar and the region but, even more importantly, they have held ground-breaking exhibitions of western contemporary art that, frankly, can be quite challenging to a conservative mindset in the Middle East. That is a brave thing for them to do. I met Robert De Niro in Qatar because they were hosting a film festival, and I was out there when they hosted a fashion festival.

This is a textbook example of how countries and Governments in the Middle East can use culture frankly to push forward change and reform within society and their country. For me, as regards my engagement with Qatar, I was left with an abiding impression that this was a country committed to change and progress as well as being a valuable ally of ours.