HC Deb 13 April 1948 vol 449 cc764-6
6. Mr. Granville Sharp

asked the Secretary of State for War what acreage of the North York Moors and coastal area were held by his Department prior to 1939; what is held at the present time; what acreage is included in the proposals now put forward; and why the acquisition of new land and the retention of present holdings, involving the denial of public access to a proposed National Park area, is considered essential.

Mr. Shinwell

My Department held no land in this area before 1939; at present it holds, under Defence Regulation 51, 29,000 acres and has training rights, under Defence Regulation 52, over a further 7,800 acres, but a considerable proportion of these areas is shortly being released. Some 28,000 acres, part of which is new land, are included in the proposals now the subject of inquiry.

In reply to the last part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to Part VII of the recent White Paper. In order to train the Army my Department requires large areas of open ground. Every effort is made to avoid agricultural land, with the result that it is necessary in some cases to seek land for training in areas recommended as National Parks by the Hobhouse Committee.

Mr. Sharp

Is the Minister aware that his proposals involve the taking over of agricultural land, and the denial of access to that land to many industrial workers of the West Riding and other areas; and will he bear in mind that there are other artillery ranges in the country which might be used, without taking over new land?

Mr. Shinwell

We exercise the greatest care and discretion in avoiding the use of agricultural land. Obviously, if we are to train the Army adequately with modern weapons and according to modern needs, we must impinge occasionally on somebody's preserves. I deplore having to do so, but it cannot be avoided.

Mr. Turton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that near Catterick there is ample land available for training troops, without going into an area that is the holiday resort for the whole of Yorkshire?

Mr. Shinwell

We must not assume that every piece of land that is open to access is available for training purposes. We require a certain type of land for those purposes. I shall, however, ascertain whether the hon. Gentleman's views about the land near Catterick are acceptable.

Mr. Scollan

Has the Minister considered the possibility of getting in touch with the Ministry of Agriculture before taking over any land?

Mr. Shinwell

My hon. Friend will not be surprised when I tell him that we are constantly in touch with the Ministry of Agriculture.

Mr. Dumpleton

Reverting to the Minister's first reply, when he said that a considerable number of acres will shortly be released, could he define that phrase more closely and say how many are to be released?

Mr. Shinwell

Not at present, but it my hon. Friend will put down a Question, I shall try to give him an answer.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In the negotiations with the local authority, who is the final authority which arbitrates between his Department and the local authority?

Mr. Shinwell

There is no question of arbitration. If objections are raised, there is a public inquiry.