In view of the valuable work that rent officers have done and the expertise they have accumulated, will the right hon. Gentleman consider extending their activities to advising local authorities, since there are considerable fluctuations in rent levels for the same accommodation between different authorities?
There is no reason why local authorities should not consult whomever they wish on a normal type of informal basis to help them come to a view about the deployment of rents in their areas. I shall consider whether there is a need to examine this matter in the context of the Rent Acts review, but I should not have thought that there was.
Are not unfurnished houses valued on a net rateable value basis by the district valuation officer? What is the point of having two separate officials valuing the same house? What additional function do rent officers perform, if rents are to be controlled, which could not be better carried out on the basis of the NRV?
I recall extensive arguments on that and related points when the 1965 Rent Act was passing through the House. Arguments were presented and conclusions reached against that approach. At this stage I can say only that all such views and representations will be considered as part of the Rent Acts review. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to make a submission, we will consider it appropriately.
Is not the difference between a valuation officer and a rent officer that, among other things, a rent officer goes to the place and sees the premises whereas a valuation officer goes nowhere near them?
I am not sure that I should risk being drawn too far down that road. In general, however, I believe that my hon. Friend is right. It would be physically impossible for the valuation officer to visit every house, but that is inevitably a part of the rent officer's duties when he is dealing with individual applications for changes in rent.
Has the Minister given further thought to the anomaly that exists which depends on whether the landlord is resident? In one case the tenant goes to the rent officer and in the other he goes to a rent tribunal. Similarly, in one case he gets awarded a fair rent and in the other he gets a reasonable rent. This is an unsatisfactory arrangement. Does it imply the eventual phasing out of rent officers or rent tribunals?
I do not know what the word "this" refers to. We have undertaken a review of the Rent Acts. The point that the hon. Gentleman raises was raised during the deliberations of the Francis Committee when the merging of the two services was considered. It is not impossible to consider this matter as part of the review, but it is not for me to say today what conclusions might be reached in the review.