§ 6.26 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I beg to move, in page 3, line 19, at the end, to insert:Provided that where the occupier of the house is an owner thereof who acquired his title prior to the passing of this Act, the provision with regard to failure to accept an offer of suitable alternative accommodation shall not apply if acceptance of the offer would cause such occupier serious hardship in connection with the disposal of the house.1765 On the Committee stage there was considerable discussion with regard to the position of owner-occupiers. It was pointed out that they were mostly people of slender means who had bought their houses, not as an investment, but for the purpose of living in them themselves, and that in many cases they were under obligations to building societies and others with regard to instalments. My right hon. Friend then said that he would make inquiries as to the extent to which owner-occupiers would be affected. I do not propose to go into the details of the result of those inquiries, but the inquiries have disclosed that, as regards the larger towns, the percentage of owner-occupier houses is very small. On the other hand, with regard to the smaller burghal communities, the percentage is considerable, and in some cases there is considerable and in other cases substantial overcrowding. It is obvious that it would not be possible in the Bill to set up a standard of overcrowding for the owner-occupier and another standard for other people. In view of the very serious hardship that these people would suffer if they had to move from their house and could not get their house sold, or could only sell it at a very great loss, and in many cases would still be responsible for the instalments to the building society, we think it right that some mitigation should be given. It is therefore for that purpose that I move the Amendment.
In Clause 3, which imposes penalties for overcrowding, Sub-section (2) provides that the occupier who satisfies certain requirements which, taken roughly, are that the overcrowding is entirely due to the presence of his family, and that his family were there on the appointed day, is not to be guilty of overcrowding unless he has failed to accept an offer of suitable alternative accommodation, and also unless he has failed to take steps to remove persons who were not members of his family from the house. It is proposed in our Amendment that the provision in regard to failure to accept an offer of alternative accommodation should not apply in the case of an owner-occupier. That is to say, the owner-occupier who otherwise complies with the requirements of Sub-section (2) would not be guilty of the offence of overcrowding simply because suitable alternative accommodation had been offered and he had declined to accept it. He will, of 1766 course, be required to comply with the other conditions. That is to say, if he has staying in his house a person who is not a member of his family he must remove that person if it is reasonably practicable to do so. Otherwise, failure to accept alternative accommodation will not render him liable to prosecution and the imposition of a penalty. The Clause deals only with owner-occupiers who held the title at the date of the passing of the Act, so that the numbers who will be affected will decrease as the years go on.
§ Amendment agreed to.