FOREIGN Secretary James Cleverly has been criticised after confirming he will attend the World Cup in anti-gay Qatar as he faced criticism for telling LBGT fans not to protest while visiting the country.

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

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 who have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup.

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

But 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 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.”

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,” Cleverly said.

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

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.”

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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 plays Iran on Monday before Wales faces the USA. 

Foreign Office advice notes “any intimacy between persons in public can be considered offensive, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or intent”.