My Lords, I have Amendment 33A in this group. I do not want to say too much but give general support to the two amendments spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, which tackle the question of the register from opposite ends but which are mutually complementary, as far as I can see—there are two different purposes but both would be desirable. There are two points in this amendment.
First, it is our view that wherever possible, local authorities should have discretion over what they do, and therefore this question of whether a local register of private landlords should be set up and collected should be a matter for the local authority concerned. For all the reasons put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and indeed to a degree by the noble Lord, Lord Flight—as well as those in the very interesting contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, which bring in a different dimension altogether—I suspect that most authorities would want to do it, because of the value there would be. However, the real reason we would like to see it is for local housing purposes, to enable a local authority to maintain proper scrutiny over the private rented sector in its area and to more easily take action when action is required. My amendment is a statement against “one size fits all”-ism to some extent, but if the Government were minded to set up the kind of register that the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, is proposing, and it were compulsory for all local authorities, I do not think we would squeal too much.
Secondly, it seems to us that a register ought to pay for itself. An ordinary register would not be terribly expensive to run, and it ought to pay for itself rather than requiring further contributions from local authorities. Those are the two reasons for my amendment.
I listened carefully to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Flight. I am not sure that the council tax register as such would be a particularly efficiently way to do this, since as I understand it, people only really register for council tax in the sort of sense he is talking about when they are new residents in a property. Over a period of time, they might well provide the information he wants, but in the short run I do not think they would, because people simply pay the bills they get each year rather than filling a form in to register again afresh each year. No doubt these are details which could be discussed.