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Military Training Area, Dartmoor (Inquiry)

Volume 440: debated on Tuesday 22 July 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that, in accordance with the promise of the Prime Minister, a public inquiry into the use of Dartmoor for military training purposes was held at Exeter; and why, prior to this inquiry, and without notice to commoners and cattle owners, he is already using Peter Tavey Great Common without regard to the danger to pedestrians and cattle, or any clearance of the ranges except by the firing of blanks prior to using live shell.

As was explained by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 25th February, where a proposal to retain permanently land already occupied by one of the Services is to be the subject of a public inquiry, the land will continue to be occupied until the inquiry is held and a decision taken. Peter Tavy Great Common is part of an area which has been requisitioned under Defence Regulation 51 since 1942, and is still so held. The inquiry referred to has recently been held, and the land will continue to be used until a decision has been made. No firing of live ammunition has recently taken place in the area, but during an infantry exercise carried out periodically, smoke bombs are used.

As the common in question is in my constituency, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware of the growing resentment in the Tavistock Division at the increasing disregard, since the war, by Government Departments of the rights of commoners and private individuals; and will he bear in mind that many of us are determined to defend these ancient rights of Englishmen?

It I may say so, I welcome that belligerent attitude in a good cause, but I can deal only with one Department. So far as the Army is concerned, I will endeavour to see that the commoners' rights are not unnecessarily interfered with.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the representatives of many of the commoners are dissatisfied with the inquiry because of their being denied the opportunity of stating their case fully, and will he ensure that an opportunity is given to them for doing so?

Is the right hon. Gentleman or the Government aware that the inquiry was very unsatisfactory, and caused a lot of local dissatisfaction?

Perhaps it would be as well to wait and see what is the outcome of the inquiry.