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Category Archives: Ed Miliband
Prime minister refuses to commit to two-way debate with Ed Miliband as Labour reveals Tories missed meeting with broadcaster
Broadcasters have said they are willing to shift the date for a head-to-head television debate between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, after the prime minister told parliament he wanted to “get on with debates before the general election campaign”.
Cameron has repeatedly refused to commit to appearing opposite the Labour leader in a head-to-head encounter proposed by broadcasters on 30 April.
I’ve been very clear. I say get on with the debates before the election campaign. I think we should start now
Rolling coverage of all the day’s political developments as they happen, including David Cameron and Ed Miliband at PMQs, Nigel Farage’s immigration speech and George Osborne’s Today interview
Nigel Farage and Steven Woolfe are now taking questions.
Paul Nuttall, the Ukip deputy leader, is chairing. He calls Gary Gibbon from Channel 4 first. There is some jeering, because of the Channel 4 drama about Ukip’s first 100 days in power.
Ukip would not deport EU citizens who are here already, he says. We work with them, and welcome them. Some are even standing as Ukip candidates.
They can definitely stay. Ukip’s policy is ethical and fair, he says.
Woolfe says “if”, and then he correct himself, “when Ukip comes to power, when Ukip wins this election” … Ukip would offer citizenship to immigrants here for five years.
Woolfe says, when you see migrants queuing up at Calais, it is hard not to want to help them.
But, if you do help them, you would be helping the traffickers who are provding funds to groups like Islamic State.
Woolfe says Ukip would maintain the UN principles governing asylum.
At the moment it takes far too long to process asylum seekers, he says. Ukip would speed this up, to allow people to start working more quickly.
Woolfe says Ukip would abolish any rules giving EU citizens preference. EU and non-EU citizens would be treated the same.
Immigrants would have to have health insurance for themselves and their families for the five years they are here before they can apply for citizenship.
Woolfe says Ukip would introduce one single passport queue at customs for British citizens, and one queue for the rest of the world. That would enable a proper count to be made of people coming in and out.
And Ukip would hire an extra 2,500 border staff – not just 1,000 more, as Labour are promising.
Woolfe says Ukip has thought long and hard about its policy.
It would set up a migration control commission to decide how much migration is needed.
Woolfe says many people in the UK share that tolerant attitude.
But other parties do not share that tolerant attitude, he says. He says a Labour adviser said there was a political purpose behind mass migration. Perhaps Labour wanted more votes, or perhaps they wanted to anger the right.
Steven Woolfe, Ukip’s immigration spokesman, is speaking now.
(Sky and BBC News are not covering the Ukip launch anymore, but there is a feed on the BBC website.)
Farage says his family were migrants. In modern parlance, they were refugees. They were protestants from France.
But they came over a period of 100 years, he says.
I feel so passionately about this because my ancestors were migrants – technically, asylum seekers. One side of my family were French Huguenot refugees. The “wave” of immigration behind my ending up here numbered around 50,000 people. This was the largest immigrant group in Britain between 1066 and 1945.
Farage says immigrants should have to have health insurance. And they should not claim benefits until they have contributed for five years.
This is a common sense solution, he says.
Nigel Farage is delivering his immigration speech in London now.
He says Ukip wants an Australian-style points system.
In an interview for BBC News Nigel Farage said his party’s decision to drop the 50,000 net migration target was not a U-turn.
It isn’t a U-turn. We’ve looked at the figures very closely – 27,000 people would have qualified under the Australian-style points system to come into this country. I can’t see us getting anywhere near 50,000.
I sat with him yesterday. Policies evolve, they develop, they move on. I don’t want the emphasis from today to be what our cap is.
The police officer in the Andrew Mitchell “plebgate” affair has accepted damages of £80,000, the Press Association reports.
The conclusion of Pc Toby Rowland’s defamation case against the MP was announced at the High Court in London today.
Last November Andrew Mitchell, who vehemently denied using the word “pleb”, lost a high-profile action against News Group Newspapers, publishers of the Sun.
Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, has just put out this statement about George Osborne’s Today interview.
George Osborne was asked six times whether he discussed allegations of tax evasion at HSBC with Lord Green, the bank’s former chairman, and six times he refused to answer.
What has George Osborne got to hide? People will draw their own conclusions from his total failure to answer.
Huffington Post’s Asa Bennett says this is not the first time Nigel Farage has dumped existing Ukip policy unceremoniously.
Nigel Farage claims Ukip’s immigration policy would lead to higher wages in the UK.
The effects of #UKIP‘s immigration policies on wages is simple supply and demand. End the open door and wages could rise in accordance.
Here are the main points from George Osborne’s Today interview.
The information that has been published recently has only recently come to light. Until that point, the allegations had been that individuals with bank accounts at HSBC had been evading tax and HMRC was, rightly, investigating it. The new information is that, potentially, the allegation is that HSBC Swiss colluded in this – this is new information.
What you’ve heard from our political opponents today, those who are contesting in this general election, is a completely chaotic alternative and they are making it up as they go along … Nigel Farage seems to be making it up as he goes along inasmuch as you follow his policies, one moment he’s talking about a cap and then he ditches it live on air, which is a novel approach to policy-making.
They say, first of all, that incomes have recovered to their pre-crisis levels so the country is not poorer than it was. They actually confirm in this independent report that the richest paid the most towards dealing with our economic problems, not the least, as you often hear. And they also say that, rather than inequality increase which, again, is often said, in fact, inequality has fallen in our country.
Here’s some Twitter comment on Nigel Farage’s morning interviews.
From the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn
Re previous tweet, Farage abandoning an immigration target has gifted the down and out Tories a way back into the debate. He may regret it.
Farage: “There’s something in immigration debate that is about more than money” <-cultural narrative where main parties totally absent
Last June, @Nigel_Farage was attacking the power of quangos…today he’s proposing putting one in charge of our borders.
Farage’s goal to return immigration figures to .’normal ‘ is a rather inspired moment in history of fantasy politics
Farage on immigration http://t.co/OcMkbddI4R (Telegraph). Nb: UKIP says they would increase Commonwealth immigration from current levels
First advice from Farage Migration Control Commission? Aussie net migration is triple that of UK, proportionately http://t.co/fpk89U7eP5
@AndrewSparrow UKIP’s skilled Indians/unskilled Romanians soundbite says we’re *too tough* on non-EU immig now. That entails net mig >100k
UKIP’s policy entails net mig still > 100k as currently measured (tho they’d sensibly reclassify students)as want Commonwealth up & students
Australian net migration is 212k/year, 1% of total population of 23m. Triple British rate http://t.co/1nU3LFd54p
Labour figures were unimpressed by George Osborne’s response to the questions about why he did not discuss HSBC tax dodging Swiss customers with Lord Green, the former HSBC boss who served as a Conservative trade minister.
The most significant is probably the one from Margaret Hodge, who is accusing Osborne of concealing the truth about his knowledge of HSBC and its involvement in tax dodging.
George Osborne on @BBCr4today once again repeatedly unable to say whether he discussed allegations of tax evasion at HSBC with Lord Green
Osborne refusing to say if he talked to Lord Green about HSBC tax evasion or avoidance. Why won’t they come clean? Clear to me they knew.
Why can’t Osborne give a straight answer re whether he spoke to Lord Green re HSBC instead he really was wriggling around @BBCr4today
Surely nobody listening to the interview with George Osborne on Today prog this morning could in all conscience vote Conservative on 7 May
Here’s the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman on George Osborne’s Today interview.
Hahah, Osborne criticises Farage for ‘a novel approach to policymaking’ by dumping immigration cap live on air.
…which is pretty much what Theresa May did on the, er, Today programme, when she started talking about net migration target as a ‘comment’
Osborne claimed that he backed the Tory plan to set a target for getting net migration below 100,000 in his Today interview, but in private his views are said to be rather different. (See 8.25am.) The Times has been running a good series on immigration this week, and this is what Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson reported in a story on Monday (paywall).
For the government, the question of inflows and outflows of people has also been the rock in the road of good coalition relations. Immigration has caused more tension within Cabinet than almost any other policy since 2010 — among Conservative ministers as much as, if not more than, between Tories and Liberal Democrats.
This is one of the few areas on which George Osborne — a liberal free marketeer who believes immigration is good for the economy — has very different views to Mr Cameron, who is in favour of tougher controls. “George does not want the Treasury briefing against the Home Office but his instincts are very different to David’s,” a friend says.
Q: Theresa May wants to keep the target of getting net migration below 100,000. Is that a good idea.
Of course, says Osborne. David Cameron supports that too.
Q: Lord Green, the trade minister, was aware of what was going on at the Swiss branch of HSBC. Did you know about that?
Osborne says he only knew what the public knew: that information had been handed over to HMRC.
Q: Only one person has been prosecuted for tax evasion in relation to the HSBC Swiss accounts. Doesn’t the law need to be better enforced?
Osborne says it is an important constitutional principle that ministers do not see people’s tax affairs, or tell the prosecuting authorities what to do.
Q: You are flogging off the family silver (Eurostar). Is there no end to selling stuff to foreigners?
Osborne says this is a good deal. The government had a minority stake anyway. It is getting much more for it than people expected.
Q: But living standards are below their all-time peak in 2009-10.
Osborne says the financial crash did enormous damage to the economy. But, compared to most other Western countries, we have grown faster, and created more jobs.
John Humphrys is interviewing George Osborne.
Humphrys says Osborne was smiling as he summarised the IFS living standards report.
And here are the key points Farage has been making in his morning interviews. (He did not just do Today.) I’ve taken some of the quotes from PoliticsHome.
We’ve had years and years of political parties setting targets. I think the public are bored with targets, they don’t believe targets. What’s really important is: are we going to get a grip on mass immigration into Britain, or not?
What I want to do, I want to bring immigration to Britain back to normality – and normality from 1950 until nearly the year 2000, from Windrush onwards, normality was net migration into Britain which varied between about 20,000 and 50,000 a year. The effect of Ukip policies would be to bring us back to those kinds of numbers. Each year will be slightly different for obvious reasons, but what we’re pushing here represents a drastic cut.
And understand this: Ukip’s immigration policy would give more opportunities to people from the rest of the world, especially from Commonwealth countries, because at the moment we have a massive bias in our immigration policy in favour of white people that come from southern and eastern Europe. So we are putting an ethical immigration forward, we are putting a fair policy forward – one that is fairer to people from the Commonwealth and fairer to British workers, too.”
We’re not going to win the election, but what we are going to do is win enough MPs to have a big voice in the next Parliament. So I’m not going to be driving a ministerial car, but I might get the chance to drive the political agenda.
Nigel Farage is wrong to say Ukip never said it would publish its manifesto at the spring conference. (See 7.44am.) This is what Suzanne Evans, the deputy chairman, said in January when she was put in charge of compiling the manifesto.
I relish the task of putting together the final details and presenting a sensible, radical and fully costed manifesto at our spring conference in Margate.
Q: When will your manifesto come out?
In April, probably later than the other parties produce theirs, says Farage.
Q: Do you agree with the director general of the IoD, who said last week the non-EU cap was harming business.
In a way, yes, says Farage. He says the current system discriminates against people outside the EU who could benefit the country.
Mishal Husain is interviewing Nigel Farage now.
Q: To what level would you reduce immigration?
Nigel Farage has been trying to address the charge that Ukip are dropping the target it was proposing only last week to get net migration below 50,000.
Just told @GMB, we didn’t have a “50,000 target”, that’s was a net migration employment number. Stay tuned for more information later today!
Here are today’s YouGov GB polling figures. The Tories are still ahead, but by 2 points, not 3 points as they were yesterday.
Update: Cons lead at 2 – Latest YouGov / Sun results 3rd Mar – Con 36%, Lab 34%, LD 5%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%; APP -19 http://t.co/stnZZ7a70Z
Two stories are leading the political news this morning.
Tories to double size of already announced scheme but party chairman fails to explain how price cut would be funded
David Cameron will announce on Monday he wants 200,000 cut-price starter homes to be built for young first-time buyers in a scheme branded by some industry insiders as “RyanAir housing”.
The homes will be funded by lifting obligations on house builders to also provide affordable homes or build new infrastructure, such as roads or health services.
Ed Miliband’s pledge to cut annual fees to £6,000 attracts criticism from George Osborne and Vince Cable
Labour’s high stakes pledge to lower the annual cap on tuition fees in England from £9,000 to £6,000, funded by removing £3bn worth pension tax relief, has been described as fraudulent by the coalition government and criticised by some experts as helping richer graduates.
In an effort to challenge the main criticism that the plan favours richer students, Labour said it would raise the interest rate on loans for wealthier graduates earning £47,000 a year or more and increase the maintenance grant by £400 a year for students whose family income fell below £25,000. It said the overall package was being funded by removing tax reliefs on some of the wealthiest in society.
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Rolling coverage of all the day’s political developments as they happen, including David Cameron and Ed Miliband at PMQs
Ed Miliband says the reputation of all MPs is damaged by the cash for access story. Is Cameron proposing no change to the rules?
Cameron says the allegations against Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw are extremely serious. He says he “certainly” does not rule out further changes. But the most important thing is to enforce the rules. And the government has passed a lobbying act and a recall act.
Sir Bill Cash, the Conservative, asks about his proposals to protect girls from female genital mutilation. Will Cameron explain how the current guidelines protect women from FGM?
Cameron says the government took the view that Cash’s proposed bill was unnecessary because current law covered it.
Labour’s John Woodcock says efforts against President Putin have been “woefully lacking”. When David Cameron leaves office, will be he content to be remembered for his weakness?
Cameron says he has closed the massive black hole in the defence budget left by Labour. We are building two aircraft carriers, and destroyers.
This is the fifth last PMQs before the election.
PMQs starts in 10 minutes.
The Times splash today might cheer Labour. It says some Tories are so worried about the party’s campaign that they want Boris Johnson to be hauled in.
David Cameron is facing calls to place Boris Johnson centre-stage in the election campaign amid mounting concerns among senior Tory figures that the party needs a more positive message.
The calls from Conservative MPs came as exclusive polling for The Times confirmed the London mayor’s status as one of Britain’s most popular politicians. More than three times as many people believe he is performing well in his job than think he is doing badly, the YouGov poll found …
If the economy favours your opponent you, as the “insurgent” candidate, are at a significant disadvantage. But there is something you can do. You can find an alternative issue, something else to campaign on. It is possible to win.
Richard Nixon in 1968 won while talking about crime and disorder and the values of the silent majority. In 1976, Jimmy Carter won by campaigning on Watergate and the need for a cleaner politics. In 2000 George W Bush ran as a compassionate conservative against a broken society …
This is from the Tories on zero hours contracts.
Tony Blair, 1995: “There will be an end to zero-hours contracts.” Why you can’t trust Labour to deliver on their promises
Paul Kenny, the GMB general secretary, has issued a lengthy press notice saying today’s zero hours contracts figures show that the labour market is not working properly. Here’s an extract.
There are nearly 700,000 workers each week that have no guaranteed hours of work while working on average 25 hours per week.
What employers are offering workers has seriously decreased while workers often have little alternative but to accept what is on offer. Even skilled workers in the UK face being undercut while wages are stagnant or falling in real terms.
Just in case anyone is confused, it is worth stressing that the ONS report on zero hours contracts (ZHCs) includes two sets of figures, both of which show an increase in the number of such contracts. Here they are again.
The Labour Force Survey figures
John Philpott, from Jobs Economist, a consultancy specialising in employment policy analysis, says the zero hours contracts figures are “disturbing” because the economic recovery was supposed to reduce the need for these contracts.
The latest estimates of the number of people employed on zero hours contracts is disturbing not only because the share of jobs without guaranteed hours of work is increasing (up from 1.9% of total employment to 2.3% in the year to Q1 2014) but also because we were told that the economic recovery was likely to see their use diminish. On the contrary, it looks as though zero hours contracts are becoming a more ingrained feature of the UK’s employment landscape, which is likely to buttress poor pay and working conditions in the lower reaches of the labour market.
Although the ONS is uncertain how much of the 19% annual increase from 586,000 to 697,000 in the number of people employed on zero hours contracts is due to increased reporting by people previously unaware of their contractual status, the big leap in public awareness of zero hours contracts was in 2012 which suggests that most of the rise between 2013 and 2014 is probably due to greater use by employers. But any rise is disappointing given the expectation that a tightening labour market would diminish use of these contracts.
Here’s Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, on the zero hours contracts figures.
The Tories’ plan is failing working families. While they prioritise a few at the top, for others there’s a rising tide of insecurity.
Ministers have watered down every person’s rights at work and zero hours contracts have gone from being a niche concept to becoming the norm in parts of our economy.
And here is a chart from the ONS report (pdf) about the use of zero hours contracts.
Here is more from the ONS report on zero hours contracts (pdf).
The latest estimate of the number of people who are employed on “zero-hours contracts” in their main employment, from the LFS, which is a survey of individuals in households, is 697,000 for October to December 2014, representing 2.3% of people in employment. It should be noted that responses to the LFS can be affected by whether or not respondents recognise the term “zero-hours contract”. This figure is higher than that for October to December 2013 (586,000 or 1.9% of people in employment), but it is not possible to say how much of this increase is due to greater recognition of the term “zero-hours contracts” rather than new contracts.
People on “zero-hours contracts” are more likely to be women, in full-time education or in young or older age groups when compared with other people in employment. On average, someone on a “zero-hours contract” usually works 25 hours a week. Around a third of people on a “zero-hours contract” want more hours, with most wanting them in their current job.
The Resolution Foundation, a thinktank specialising in measures that could help low earners, says today’s ONS figures show why the government needs to act to stop zero hours contracts becoming the norm in some employment areas. This is from Conor D’Arcy, policy analyst at the foundation.
Zero hours contracts are a potent symbol of the recent downturn. They signal both the flexibility that has helped keep unemployment down but also the deep insecurity that has blighted many jobs.
The continued growth of zero hours contracts during the recovery suggests that they are more than just a recession-related phenomenon. While many employers may have started to use zero-hours contracts during the downturn, it looks like most are sticking with them.
And here’s Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, on the zero hours contracts figures.
Zero hours contracts sum up what has gone wrong in the modern workplace.
They shift almost all power from the worker and give it to their boss. Anyone on such a contract has no guarantee of any work from one day to another. Put a foot wrong and you can find yourself with little or no work.
Here’s Vince Cable, the business secretary, on the zero hours contracts figures.
Zero-hours contracts are valued by many employers and individuals who want flexibility in the hours they work, such as students, people with caring responsibilities and those who want to partially retire.
However, historically there has also been some abuse in these types of contracts. That is why I am taking legislation through parliament at the moment to ban exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts which prevent people looking for additional work to boost their income. We want to make sure that people who are on zero-hours contracts get a fair deal.
Helen Pidd, the Guardian’s northern editor, says Manchester council’s chief executive is describing the reports about Manchester getting control of £6bn of health spending as “premature”.
Howard Bernstein, Mcr chief exec, tells me reports of the city region getting control of £6bn health budget are “premature” & “speculative”.
The Office for National Statistics has published figures showing that the number of zero hours contracts has gone up from 1.4m to 1.8m. This is from the Press Association.
The new total for last August is 400,000 more than a previously published estimate in January 2014, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The number of people saying they were employed on zero-hours contracts in their main job was 697,000 in the quarter to December, up from 586,000 in the same period in 2013.
The estimate from the second ONS survey of businesses indicates that there are around 1.8 million contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours, where work was carried out in the fortnight beginning 11 August 2014. This figure should not be directly compared with the previously published estimate (1.4 million for the fortnight beginning 20 January 2014) to imply an increase in the number. It covers a different time of year and so differences in the number of such contracts reported may reflect seasonal factors.
On Newsnight last night Lord Heseltine, the Conservartive former deputy prime minister, said that being an MP was not a full-time job and that people like Sir Malcolm Rifkind should be allowed second jobs.
The fundamental question, I think, is – is an MP expected to be a full-time employee of his or her constituency? And my own view is that it is not a full-time job. There’s a huge commitment in it and you work all hours and all days, but there is plenty of time in which you can do other things providing it’s within the rules that are laid down.
There are many people who would regard themselves as well-paid at the parliamentary salary level. They made a choice to come into the House of Commons knowing what the salary and what the review arrangements are, so that’s up to them.
Now that Manchester is getting control of its health budget, it might want to invest in astrology – if it is following the advice of the Conservative MP David Tredinnick.
I do believe that astrology and complementary medicine would help take the huge pressure off doctors. Ninety per cent of pregnant French women use homeopathy. Astrology is a useful diagnostic tool enabling us to see strengths and weaknesses via the birth chart. And, yes, I have helped fellow MPs. I do foresee that one day astrology will have a role to play in healthcare.
Astrology offers self-understanding to people. People who oppose what I say are usually bullies who have never studied astrology. Astrology was until modern times part of the tradition of medicine … People such as Professor Brian Cox, who called astrology ‘rubbish’, have simply not studied the subject.
There are 71 days to go until the general election.
Here’s today’s “election fact” from the Press Association.
For more than 200 years newly-appointed ministers were required to vacate their seats and seek re-election as they were taking an office of profit under the Crown. In many cases they were returned unopposed but those who were not could face embarrassing consequences. Winston Churchill, having defected from Tory to Liberal, won Manchester North West at the 1906 general election. When he was appointed President of the Board of Trade in 1908 vengeful Conservatives opposed him in the by-election – and won. He then had to move to Dundee about which he said: “It is a life seat and cheap and easy beyond all experience.” He lost it 16 years later. The regulations on ministerial by-elections were in force between 1707 and 1926.
The story about health spending being devolved to Manchester was broken by the Manchester Evening News last night. Here’s its story.
The Manchester Evening News also runs a live blog. I’m a bit alarmed to see that they start even earlier than me.
Phillip Blond, head of the ResPublica thinktank, was on the Today programme welcoming the plan to devolve health spending in Manchester.
The Sun says that George Osborne has told David Cameron that, under his plans, defence spending will fall below 2% of GDP – the minimum target set by Nato.
EXCL: Britain will break a key NATO spending pledge within two years – and should, George Osborne has told PM http://t.co/kD9Mwe0NgO
Our view, the view of the defence committee, is that that would be a big mistake because that commitment [the 2% target] came out of a Nato summit that was directed against what’s happening in the Ukraine. It really happened in the context of demonstrating to Putin that the whole of Nato, that’s not just Britain and the United States but all the other countries, were committed to spending 2% on defence. Putin’s an opportunist, he’s looking for signs of weakness, he’s testing the alliance so it’s very important symbolically that we hold to that 2% commitment.
And this is what Richard Humphries, assistant director of the King’s Fund, a health thinktank, told the BBC’s Today programme about the Manchester devolution plan. He said it would be a reform “on a breathtaking scale” but that it could pose serious risks.
If the plan is to take the money away from CCGs [clinical commissioning groups] and NHS England and to give it to local government, that, on the range of options to achieve integration, is on the nuclear end of the spectrum and raises all sorts of questions and risks.
Depending on the detail – and the detail is really crucial and we don’t have that yet – you could either see this as a triumph for local democracy or creating real risks of yet another reorganisation of the NHS when it’s barely recovered from the last one.
If the plan is to give the money to local government, the words ‘chalice’ and ‘poisoned’ perhaps spring to mind.
Here is more from the Press Association on the plan to devolve power over health spending worth £6bn to Manchester.
Full control of £6bn a year of health spending is to be handed to Greater Manchester as part of a significant extension of devolved powers, it was reported.
A proposed deal with the Treasury – which the Manchester Evening News said was due to be formally unveiled by chancellor George Osborne this week – would transfer the spending of NHS cash to 10 local councils from April 2016.
The details are not entirely clear yet, but this would amount to a significant act of decentralisation. Council leaders, and eventually the elected mayor planned for Greater Manchester, would control the money.
Here are today’s YouGov polling figures. YouGov poll for the Sun.
Update: Cons lead at 2 – Latest YouGov / Sun results 24th Feb – Con 35%, Lab 33%, LD 6%, UKIP 14%, GRN 7%; APP -18 http://t.co/89WuWyvaTW
It’s Wednesday, and that means one thing: the outstanding leaders of our age, debating each other at the heart of one of Britain’s great institutions, in front of the most intelligent and sophisticated audience in London.
But that’s enough about the hustings at Guardian HQ for the candidates hoping to be the next editor-in-chief. First we’ve got to get through PMQs.
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