Harry Bates was the father of Terry and Doreen Bates and the common-law husband of Rita. Harry was with Rita long enough for her to be looked upon as the only mother Harry's children knew, and for several years she was their main parent as Harry worked as a driver on building sites and was away for much of the time. In his absence, Rita sometimes entertained men at the Bates residence, including Ken Barlow and Len Fairclough.
In May 1972, when their house was scheduled for demolition, Harry and Rita saw Len and asked him to use his council connections to get them rehoused. Len set up a meeting between them and the housing committee, but they failed to get a house as they were asked for a marriage certificate and, when they told Len they weren't married and that Harry had a wife who lived in Ramsbottom, Len refused to be of any further help to them, despite Rita begging him. Harry blamed the failure on Rita "losing her touch" and, once home, he gave her a beating and threw her out. The next day, Len visited Harry at his building site to ask him if he would take Rita back, as she had dumped herself on Len despite there being no room for her at No.9 (and Len was eager to wash his hands of the whole affair). Harry was willing to take Rita back but the chat quickly turned into a punch-up, witnessed by Councillor Warburton, causing further trouble for Len. Despite previously being adamant that she and Harry were over, Rita subsequently returned to Harry, but only temporarily as when Len saw Rita singing at Victoria Street Working Men's Club a month later, she had split from Harry permanently and was using her real name, Littlewood.
Despite not paying any more visits to Coronation Street, Harry still had the occasional impact on Rita and Len's lives. In March 1976, Harry asked Rita to marry him however she turned him down. In June 1977, Terry dumped himself on a now-married Rita and Len after falling out with Harry's girlfriend Doreen but he was quickly thrown out by Len. In February 1980, when Rita left Len, Harry was one of the people Len contacted in his search for his wife, only to find out Harry hadn't seen Rita in years.
- In Episode 2921 (27th March 1989), Rita mentioned Harry Bates assaulting her while talking about Alan Bradley to Alf Roberts.