These passes allow flexible entry to common areas of parliament with no need to register any meetings the holders have with MPs.
Guido Fawkes reported last week that Harris, the MP for Swansea East, was employing "public affairs specialist" Bailey among her parliamentary staff.
Bailey appears on the MPs’ Register of Staff, but told Guido Fawkes: "Just to clarify, I am not an employee or member of Carolyn’s staff. I am a self-employed sole trader. My firm, Whiterock Consulting, is retained by Carolyn Harris MP. We provide 5+ days a month support." He added: "Clearly I work for Carolyn but not as a member of her parliamentary/constituency staff."
The PRCA’s director general Francis Ingham then penned a letter, posted yesterday on the organisation's website, to express his concerns. "I would like to remind you of your obligations to behave ethically as this story undermines the reputation of the lobbying industry and the integrity of MPs," he wrote.
The PRCA’s own code of conduct prohibits its public affairs members from holding a pass because "there is a clear conflict of interest". Ingham said Bailey "should have never entertained the idea of a parliamentary pass and as an MP you [Harris] should have never employed a lobbyist and given him a pass".
Bailey is not one of the PRCA’s 20,000 members, who are expected to abide by a code of conduct with disciplinary procedures for those who flout the rules, but the letter expressed concern about the story undermining the reputation of the lobbying industry, as well as the integrity of MPs.
The PRCA told PRWeek it had not yet heard back from Harris and has contacted the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and would make a formal complaint later today or tomorrow.
At the time of publishing, PRWeek was yet to hear back from Harris' office. A House of Commons press officer said that while any reported misuse of Parliamentary passes would be investigated, she could not comment on individual cases.
MPs are usually allocated three staff passes and may be allowed extra passes for an intern or work placement student, a carer or other special requirement and one for their spouse or civil partner.
Any further requests have to be supported by a business case from the MP concerned, with some granted for job share arrangements, part-time additional staff, temporary project staff and departmental responsibilities.
This is not the first time concerns have been raised over the granting of parliamentary passes. Last year, more than 100 unnamed Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative party officials were given passes despite rules banning the use of Parliament for "party political" activities. Fears were raised that the facilities were being use to carry out fundraising.
- This story originally said that the PRCA had approached the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, rather than the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. It was changed shortly after publication.