MPs fail to challenge Morris on parliamentary pass claim

The public affairs industry emerged unscathed from the latest public administration select committee hearing - but only after MPs allowed a contentious claim about parliamentary passes to go unchallenged.

Representatives of the CIPR, PRCA and Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) were summoned to appear last week as the Commons committee pressed ahead with its inquiry into the transpar­ency of the industry.

Lib Dem MP Paul Rowen had expressed concern about lobbyists holding parliamentary passes, which give privileged access to MPs and res­earchers. He said: ‘How do you know whether that practice is going on?'

APPC chair Morris said passholders were primarily former MPs, adding: ‘If you have a pass there's a distinction on our code to ens­ure your private and professio­nal lives are separate.'
Rowen pressed: ‘But is it declared? Could I come to your register and find out which former MPs are working as consultants?'

To which Morris respon­ded: ‘You probably know the consultants who are former MPs, but yes, it's declared.'

However, while the APPC register lists individual lobbyists by name, it does not declare passholders and there is no reference to passes or former MPs in any section of the register.
Morris has subsequently clarified her remarks, telling PRWeek: ‘The APPC does not have a list of former MPs who work for member agencies - who would therefore be entitled to a pass.

But they are declared in the register... it is pretty easy to identify.' As the latest session progressed, members of the committee appeared to have different takes on the public affairs industry.

Labour MP Paul Flynn claimed lobbyists ‘give adv­antage to the advantaged'.

But Tory Charles Walker said there was scant evidence of lobbyists behaving improperly. He said: ‘We haven't found any smoking guns.'

As PRWeek went to press, the committee had not ann­ounced the date of the next session but sources said Bell Pottinger Public Affairs chair Peter Bingle had been lined up to appear before the committee on 6 March.

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