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As already stated, Her Majesty's Government, before deciding in November last that the range should go ahead, did everything possible to consult the public bodies concerned and also individual crofters, and to explain to them what exactly was involved. In view of the absence of objections after detailed plans had been circulated, no need was seen for a public inquiry. Applications for authority for the resumption of crofting land for the range are now before the Land Court which will, it is understood, hold a hearing in Benbecula on 8th April.
Is the Minister aware that provision is made under the 1947 White Paper for responsible persons to ask for an inquiry, quite apart from the local authorities; that 168 hon. Members have signed a Motion which is on the Order Paper asking for such an inquiry; that a meeting of local, representative people has also asked for it, and that nobody has objected to its being held? In the circumstances, even from the Government's own point of view, does not the Minister think that it might be worth while to have an inquiry?
While there was no stated time limit, my right hon. Friend did wait from June to November before taking the action he did. He considers, and I am sure the House will consider, that he waited a reasonable time. With that point in view, my right hon. Friend did not feel that a Motion signed by 168 Members would constitute an objection of substance within the time limit.
Is the Minister suggesting that nearly 170 signatures of hon. Members of this House, of at least two of the parties. does not constitute pressure from a body of responsible persons? That is really what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Is he aware that local people, and many others who have had some opportunity of considering this matter, did not at first realise the impact and meaning of it until very recently and until fuller facts were disclosed? There is still a strong suspicion that the full facts are not known. Does not the hon. Gentleman consider that, from the Government's own point of view, it would be well to have an inquiry and to allow people to know the full facts as soon as possible?