Lobbying industry calls for an end to Parliamentary pass abuse

More than 200 Parliamentary passes have been granted to representatives of organisations likely to be engaged in lobbying, including think tanks, business groups, and commercial enterprises, according to research conducted by the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) – the representative body for the lobbying industry.

An analysis of the Lords and Commons Registers of the interests of staff reveals that 210 passes have been granted to individuals with links to organisations outside Parliament.

These passes grant their holders unfettered access to the Parliamentary estate, raising questions about unfair access to political decision-makers. The professional lobbyists represented by the PRCA are prohibited from holding them under the Public Affairs Code, other than in exceptionally rare and publicly declared circumstances.

Parliamentary Passes in numbers

  Commons Lords Combined totals
Not for profits/charities  30 75 105
Public affairs consultants 10 0 10
Commercial providers 12 37 49
Trade unions 5 2 7
Business groups 2 5 7
Think tanks 5 18 23
Lawyers 0 3 3
Universities 0 6 6
Total 64 146 210

The PRCA is today calling on the Parliamentary authorities to:

1. Urgently review each passholder who has a second job to assess whether it is appropriate for them to continue to hold a pass.
2. Remove passes from anyone whose other roles make it inappropriate for them to have access to the Parliamentary estate.
3. Reform the rules around passes to ensure this abuse is ended permanently, and that passes are only issued to people who genuinely need them for their work for Peers or MPs.  

PRCA Public Affairs Board Chair, Liam Herbert commented:

“It is extraordinary that more than 200 people likely to be lobbying for think tanks, charities, trade unions, business groups, commercial enterprises, and others have been given official sanction to have privileged access to Parliamentarians.

“No other office building would allow unfettered access to such a huge number of people whose main place of employment is somewhere else – so it is surprising and concerning that an institution that is meant to be secure location has such a cavalier attitude to the issuing of security passes. It is even more surprising that so many of these passes are held by people whose job seems to be to influence the political process. This is unfair, untransparent, and inappropriate.

“The PRCA Public Affairs Code prohibits the professional lobbyists it represents from holding Parliamentary passes for the obvious reason that to do so throws up real and perceived conflicts of interest. It is time for the Parliamentary authorities to meet those same ethical standards and to strip individuals of passes to which they have no legitimate right.”

The PRCA previously called for the overhaul of the process governing the award of Parliamentary Passes in its Six-Point Public Confidence Plan for lobbing reform.

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