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House of Commons

Monday 13 February 1995

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[ Madam Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Oral Answers to Questions


Primary Schools

1. Sir David Knox: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much was spent per pupil in primary schools in Wales in the most recent year for which figures are available; and what was the figure for 1978-79, at constant prices.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. John Redwood): In 1979-80, the amount spent per pupil in primary and nursery schools, at 1993-94 prices, was £1,086; the amount spent per pupil in 1992-93 was £1,657. Figures for 1978-79 are not available. That represents a massive 52.5 per cent. increase in real terms, despite the fact that, in practically every year, the Labour party has said that the amount was being cut.

Sir David Knox: Does my right hon. Friend agree that those are impressive increases in expenditure per pupil in primary schools in Wales? Is he satisfied that those increases have been accompanied by comparable increases in standards?

Mr. Redwood: In some cases they have, in some cases they have not, which is why my hon. Friends and I have been busy urging all schools in Wales to raise their standards, especially those where results are still disappointing. We have made a massive commitment, through votes in the House, to ensure more money for local government in general and for education in particular. Much extra money is being spent and we should like to see further progress with standards.

Mr. Simon Hughes: I welcome the general figures, but I reserve judgment about recent years' increases in expenditure. Will the Secretary of State turn his attention to one specific matter affecting the education of primary school children in Wales? Large parts of Wales now have access to S4C, Welsh-speaking television, but not to Channel 4, including its educational programmes. That is a big issue in Gwent, including in Islwyn. [ Laughter. ] It is true and it is clearly accepted in the House. Will the Secretary of State take steps to ensure that all educational programmes are available to all primary school children throughout the Principality?

Mr. Redwood: I cannot imagine why the hon. Gentleman is interested in Islwyn at the moment--I wonder whether he has ever been there or campaigned there. The issue is one for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage and I shall ensure

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that he sees the question and the point behind it. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that some people are worried about access to both television channels in parts of Wales.

Mr. Ron Davies: I suspect that the party of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes)--the Liberal Democrat party--has a slightly greater interest in Islwyn than the Secretary of State's party. Given the increase in school numbers of a further 8,000 pupils next year, why has the Secretary of State cut expenditure on education? He has made a complete shambles of the local government settlement. He is browbeating education authorities to spend their balances when each and every one of them is doing just that to protect their education services. He is bullying schools about their balances when all they are doing is following the Government's instructions.

Is it not now clear that enormous damage is being done throughout our education service in Wales--teachers are protesting, pupils are protesting, parents are protesting, governors are protesting and politicians are protesting? Is it just the Secretary of State's arrogance that makes him believe that everyone else is wrong and he alone is right?

Mr. Redwood: That long speech fell flat. In 1991-92, there were 26,633 teachers in Wales and in 1993-94 there were 26,752--an increase. Every year, the Labour party--through its councils and in the House--has threatened big cuts in teacher numbers. I am not cutting expenditure. I asked the House to approve increased money for Welsh local government and it did so on 8 February. The hon. Gentleman cannot produce a single shadow pound over and above my settlement.

Dr. Spink: Does my hon. Friend accept that what matters most is outcomes in education? Does he agree that outcomes in education in Wales are exceptionally good, particularly compared with those in England? Is that not a result of the methods used in Wales, which are often not child- centred or project teaching but whole-class teaching and more traditional methods? Would he recommend those methods to some of our English schools?

Mr. Redwood: I join my hon. Friend in welcoming traditional methods. I think that too much child-centred learning spoils the child and spoils results. I fear, however, that we have a long way to go in Wales, as in England, in raising standards generally. The pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools has remained the same--22.3--since 1988-89, so there is no evidence of massive cuts in teachers. I hope that governors support them, and that they all get on with the job of raising standards.

Local Government Finance

2. Mr. Ainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received on his local government settlement for 1995 -96.

Mr. Redwood: I have received a number of representations on the settlement, which was debated and agreed on 8 February 1995.

Mr. Ainger: Is the Secretary of State aware that his claim that schools can meet the teachers' pay rise from their accumulated balances is completely without foundation? Is he aware that this morning I spoke to head teachers of secondary schools in my constituency, each of

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whom said that they would be unable to meet the pay rise without cutting staff and equipment budgets and, in some cases, going into deficit? Does he now accept the argument of the Secretary of State for Education: that unless the teachers' pay rise is fully funded by central Government, it will be disastrous for the education service?

Mr. Redwood: I think that the hon. Gentleman has probably switched his question. I imagine that he originally intended to ask about the police --a big increase in the settlement took care of that problem--but he is wrong in what he said. There is money in the settlement to pay for good teachers and to meet the increase in teachers' pay that we have accepted from the recommendations of the review body. I identified in the debate a number of ways in which that money can be found, not only from balances in schools, and the hon. Gentleman should remember that the total settlement approved was £87 million higher than in the current year.

Sir Wyn Roberts: Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, as a result of good settlements in previous years, most local authorities have accumulated substantial balances, which, along with aggregate Exchequer grant, should be very helpful to them?

Mr. Redwood: My right hon. Friend is right. There are balances in the counties and in the schools, and an extra £600 million, or 30 per cent., has been made available since 1991, which is well above the inflation rate.

Police Funding

3. Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received on the current allocation of money for police forces in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Redwood: I had a number of representations on the police settlement. I am sure that the House will welcome the £15.1 million increase in the settlement as a result of those representations and my reconsideration of the position.

Mr. Llwyd: I readily acknowledge that the recent settlement is a great improvement for policing. I accept that it is an improvement in north Wales, and that it has been acknowledged to be so.

I remind the Minister, however, that, unfortunately, there is a great and increasing drugs problem in Wales, and the police officers with whom I spoke recently said that tackling it is beyond their current resources. It behoves the Welsh Office to take a strategic approach to that increasing problem, and to give some direction for police officers to follow?

Mr. Redwood: The hon. Gentleman is right that there is a worrying drugs problem. The Welsh Office is co-ordinating work on how best to tackle it. The £15 million extra for the police, in addition to the original settlement proposals, is very helpful in that respect. I should like to pay tribute to the excellent work of the north Wales police in relation to the Owens family. I am sure that the whole House will join me in saying that we are delighted that the family is reunited and that we are grateful to the police and the medical staff who helped.

Mr. Sweeney: Will my right hon. Friend note the considerable relief and pleasure in the Vale of Glamorgan

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at the substantial increase in funding for South Wales police? Will he further note that the action taken by him and our right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary was necessary because of the deplorable underfunding of South Wales police, and that we are grateful for his action now?

Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend is quite right. I had wanted local government to do the decent thing by the police; it had plenty of money to do so, but it chose to spend it on other things, so, with regret, I took the matter out of its hands. The House approved my proposals, which will lead to many more policemen on the beat, especially in south Wales, but perhaps throughout Wales. I think that is what the public want.

Mr. Michael: Does not the Secretary of State recognise that everyone will regard his regret as lacking in sincerity? The funding shortfall for the police force in Wales--particularly South Wales police--is due to the failure of the Secretary of State and his colleague the Home Secretary to provide the money. Is it not curious that this year, when the need to set an SSA has forced clarity into the allocation of funds, he has finally come up with the money that we have been telling him to allocate for two years?

Mr. Redwood: There was money in the original settlement that was left to the discretion of local government to spend. I freely accept that it was uncomfortable for me to defend for many months the proposition that Labour local government should do the decent thing and give the right answers when the House had voted freely to make the money available. Local government refused to give that money to the police and wasted it on other things. That is the scandal and I am glad that we have resolved it-- although I wish that local authorities had resolved it themselves.

Inward Investment

4. Mr. Nigel Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he has to encourage further inward investment into Wales.

Mr. Redwood: I intend to promote Wales vigorously as a centre for inward investment. Low inflation, low interest rates and a skilled and flexible work force are their own advertisements, but I intend to ensure that the world knows about them and that more investors will come to Wales.

Mr. Evans: Wales has always had a good inward investment record that is envied by all. What does the Secretary of State think would happen to inward investment if Britain went down the cul-de-sac of devolution or signed up to the social chapter and introduced a minimum wage?

Mr. Redwood: Extra taxes, which could result from devolution, would be extremely damaging to inward investment in Wales as it would go elsewhere in the United Kingdom that was not similarly burdened. It is vital to Britain that we do not have the social chapter. That is why we get more than our fair share of inward investment into the Community and why we wish to carry on in that happy state.

Mr. Denzil Davies: Are not major proposals for inward investment from abroad dealt with mainly by the Invest

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in Britain Bureau, which is a responsibility of the Department of Trade and Industry, the industry Department for England? Where does the Welsh Office fit into the structure?

Mr. Redwood: The right hon. Gentleman is misinformed: the bureau helps the whole of the United Kingdom. He should know that the Welsh Development Agency is also strongly involved in the promotion of Wales and that it works closely with British agencies. The success is there for all to see. Why has Wales done so well if the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the structure does not work?

Mr. Jenkin: Does my right hon. Friend think it likely that Britain's failure to participate in a single European currency will threaten the flow of inward investment into Wales?

Mr. Redwood: The Government have made it clear that we do not foresee a single currency in 1995, 1996 or 1997 and that we would not join one in those years. We obviously do not think that it would damage our inward investment prospects during that time, and that is the Government's clear decision.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones: Does not the Secretary of State recognise that the continuing deep Cabinet split over the issue of a single currency is extremely damaging to the future of inward investment in Wales? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said that it is quite possible to have monetary union without political union, or will he follow the Euro-sceptic line in Wales, wrap himself in the Union Jack and totally disregard our needs?

Mr. Redwood: I am very happy with the leadership that the Prime Minister has offered in his speeches and interviews on the subject, which made the situation absolutely crystal clear.

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that it is certainly not putting off inward investors. For example, Ringtel, the first serious Taiwanese investor in Wales, announced today that it will create 100 jobs. I hope that he welcomes that news. It shows that inward investors do not take what is written in the newspapers as seriously as Labour Members. Investors recognise that Britain is the right place in which to invest and that we have the right policy for trade with Europe and the rest of the world.

Mr. Morgan: What will be the impact on inward investment from Europe, now that the United Kingdom, which is supposed to be united, is governed by a Tory party that is clearly disunited? The Secretary of State has come out blatantly as a member of the anti-Europe party within the Cabinet and has made clear his visceral antipathy to anything European-- even European investment in Wales.

Mr. Redwood: I am not sure that there was a question amid that ranting. We are all Europeans. Britain is in Europe geographically and by its membership of various European institutions. We benefit from those institutions and from the strength of our position as world and European traders. I am much in favour of that, as I trust are Opposition Members.

Lady Olga Maitland: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Americans are the leading investors in Wales,

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accounting for 25 per cent. of inward investment? Interestingly and by contrast, the figure for the Japanese is 7 per cent.

Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The American relationship is crucial to our success. The Americans have been the leading investors in Wales for many years, increasingly followed by the Japanese. We welcome investors from all over the world but recognise the importance of the American link to our current and future prosperity.

Mr. Donald Anderson: Is it not also crucial that the Americans and Japanese see Britain as a continuing member of the European Union? When the Secretary of State is ready to parade his anti-European prejudices, would it not be helpful if he paused and reflected on that fact and perhaps bit his tongue?

Mr. Redwood: The hon. Gentleman did not quote anything that I have said, so clearly he does not have a juicy quotation to sustain his point, which was of course a non-point. We benefit from membership of the European Union, NATO and, through the EU, GATT. All are important to our security and trading prospects, and we must get the best from them by negotiating for Britain in the right way. Many Opposition Members would give in before negotiating. We want to stand up for Britain and get the right deal, so that inward investors still come to us.

Planning Policy Guidance

6. Mr. Gareth Wardell: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales which planning policy guidances operative in England he intends to extend to Wales.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Gwilym Jones): My right hon. Friend will shortly issue for consultation draft planning guidance covering PPGs 9, 13, 15, 23 and 24.

Mr. Wardell: I am delighted to hear that news. In England, the Department of the Environment issued PPG 13, which was a major step forward in strategic planning, in March 1994, but a vacuum has been created in Wales by the Welsh Office? Unless those PPGs are introduced quickly, the people of Wales will have every right to suspect that the Welsh Office is in danger of becoming a second-rate Department.

Mr. Jones: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's welcome, although my announcement is not new. It is common knowledge that, on a point of principle, we should reflect carefully on anything issued by the Department of the Environment before deciding what guidance to issue in Wales. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not agree that we should merely replicate every measure taken by the Department of the Environment. I do not know of any evidence to suggest that any Welsh interest has been disadvantaged.

Mr. Win Griffiths: Why has PPG 9, which was issued in England in October 1994 in time to comply with the European Union habitats directive, resulted in estuaries such as the Rivers Dee and Severn enjoying one mode of protection on the English side of the boundary and different, outmoded protection on the Welsh side? Why is the Welsh Office in effect acting illegally, in failing to apply planning guidance on the EU habitats directive? Is

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it because of the Secretary of State's well- known antipathy to Europe, regulation and the protection of the environment?

Mr. Jones: I certainly do not accept the hon. Gentleman's wild claims. We have been carefully considering the matter, and draft guidance will be issued shortly.

Private Rented Housing

7. Mr. Thurnham: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received about the role of the private rented housing sector in Wales.

Mr. Gwilym Jones: We have received expressions of support for the Government's policy.

Mr. Thurnham: Is my hon. Friend aware that a recent survey showed that tenants much prefer private landlords to public landlords? Is it not time that we encouraged the private rented housing sector, which in Wales accounts only for one third of the average among countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development?

Mr. Jones: I very much share the concern expressed in my hon. Friend's question, but I am happy to reassure him that the issue is being dealt with. In the past four years, we have spent about £19 million in Wales pursuing exactly that objective, which has succeeded in securing more than 1,200 additional new homes.

Atomic Weapons Establishment

8. Mr. Jon Owen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he made to ensure that the cuts in the Atomic Weapons Establishment were not disproportionately made in Wales.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Rod Richards): My right hon. Friend was consulted before the recent decisions about the Atomic Weapons Establishment were taken. The rationalisation will be made possible by the completion of work on Trident warheads. Cardiff has not been singled out. The Atomic Weapons Establishment in Cardiff will close in 1997, Hunting-BRAE, the operating contractor, will withdraw from Foulness in 1998 and component production at Burghfield will transfer to Aldermaston in 1999.

Mr. Jones: The Minister should recall that I raised the question of disproportionately low Government defence expenditure in Wales in October. As AWE has announced a 15 per cent. reduction in its work force across Britain and a 100 per cent. reduction in its work force in Wales, how does the Minister intend to advance the cause of Wales against that bias in defence-related industries?

Another topical issue is the official service residences, over which Sir Sandy Wilson has recently got into hot water. There are 78 such residences throughout the world, yet not one in Wales. What will the Welsh Office do about that bias against Wales?

Mr. Richards: Rationalisation of AWE was necessary because the Trident programme is coming to an end. It is outrageous that a Labour Member should talk about bias

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against Wales in defence expenditure, because if Labour Members had had their way at any time during the 1980s all those jobs would have disappeared years ago.


9. Mr. John Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest figures for unemployment in Wales; and what was the figure in December 1992.

Mr. Richards: In December 1994, the seasonally adjusted number of persons on the claimant unemployment count in Wales was 109,000, some 8.6 per cent. of the work force, compared with 133,200, or 10.5 per cent. in December 1992. That represents a fall of 24,200 or 18 per cent.

Mr. Marshall: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, which will be welcomed by everyone, except the professional pessimists on the Opposition Benches. Does he agree that that decline would not have taken place if we had had a national minimum wage, if we had signed the social chapter or if we had left the European Union, as recommended by the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) in 1983?

Mr. Richards: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. With his interest in the subject, he will not have failed to have read the latest CBI Welsh industrial trends, which show that new orders are increasing at the fastest rate since they were first published in 1978, that output is well above the UK average at some 6.3 per cent. and that optimism--generally and about exports--is at a record level. Those trends are supported by British chambers of commerce, Dun and Bradstreet and Touche Ross.

Mrs. Clwyd: Given the well-established link between unemployment and poverty, will the Minister comment on yet another report which shows that, under his Government, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer? The top tenth of the population are now 60 per cent. better off than they were in 1979, while the bottom tenth of the population are 17 per cent. worse off than they were in 1979. One child in every three is living in poverty. What are his Government going to do about that?

Mr. Richards: The hon. Lady raises an interesting point: the link between unemployment and poverty. She may care to know that in my county of Clwyd, unemployment fell in the past year by some 15 per cent. yet Clwyd county council, through its Clwyd welfare rights unit, employed an additional seven people in September to give advice on benefits. That unit cost some £800,000 to set up.

I have with me a glossy leaflet put out by the Clwyd welfare rights unit and published quarterly by Clwyd county council. It describes these seven employees as the Magnificent Seven, and goes on to say: "You may have bumped into some of the new officers when they recently took part in a treasure hunt to acquaint themselves with their new surroundings".

I think that will suffice.

Wales Tourist Board

10. Mr. Simon Coombs: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much was spent by the Wales tourist board

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last year under section 4 of the Promotion of Tourism Act 1969; and what is his assessment of the return on this outlay.

Mr. Gwilym Jones: The payments made in 1993-94 were just under £4.1 million. During the year £5.1 million of assistance was approved for new projects by the Wales tourist board to secure £30.6 million of investment and create or safeguard 525 jobs.

Mr. Coombs: My hon. Friend is obviously well aware of the significance of the multiplier effect, which turns a relatively small volume of investment into a substantial return to the public purse. In view of that, does he have any plans for boosting the tourism potential of Cardiff following the construction of many the projects related to the Cardiff bay barrage?

Mr. Jones: I am pleased to acknowledge my agreement with my hon. Friend about the relevance of the multiplier factor, which is important to tourism and to the regeneration of south Cardiff, which is estimated to have achieved the creation of more than 20,000 jobs. I am sure that my hon. Friend joins me in condemning the opposition to that by Opposition Front- Bench spokesmen, who would much rather have the money spent on a Welsh Assembly.

Mr. Flynn: How does the Minister react to the news today that a publication by the Wales tourist board eliminates many of the main tourist attractions in Wales, including Caerleon in my

constituency--one of the top half-dozen tourist attractions? In Caerleon there are Roman baths and barracks. Does the Minister agree about the importance of teaching our children about the time when Europe was united, with a common currency, and how it then went back into a dark age of barbarism when the Euro-sceptics came along with personalities and instincts not dissimilar from those of the Secretary of State?

Mr. Jones: The hon. Gentleman has got his allusions very wrong--from where I sit, all the barbarians are facing me. At the same time, I readily appreciate the importance of promoting all parts of Wales. That is what I am sure the Wales tourist board is seeking to do.

Industrial Development, Rhondda

Madam Speaker: Mr. Rogers.

Mr. Rogers: Number--whatever it is.

Madam Speaker: No.11.

11. Mr. Rogers: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he intends to visit the Rhondda to discuss industrial development.

Mr. Redwood: The hon. Gentleman is not very alert when inviting me to his constituency. Perhaps after what has been said he has changed his mind about whether he wants me to visit it. I can however assure him that I discussed industrial regeneration in his area on 26 September with Rhondda borough and other local authorities. I would be delighted to take up his invitation to visit--if he still wishes to invite me.

Mr. Rogers: Those of us who represent valley communities--probably some of the poorest, on any

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socio-economic indicator, in the United Kingdom--certainly recognise the difficulties of attracting industrial units to our areas. But it is still important to create jobs.

When the Secretary of State comes to the Rhondda, will he take the opportunity to condemn the Welsh nationalist leadership of Taff-Ely council, which bitterly opposes jobs coming to the Rhondda and which has probably used public money to take full-page advertisements to prevent that from happening? Will he come and discuss with us this vicious attack on the people of the Rhondda valleys by the Welsh nationalists?

Mr. Redwood: I would certainly rather the money was spent on schools and education than on that sort of black propaganda--if that is what they are doing. The hon. Gentleman speaks for his constituents when he says that he wants more investment in the area, and I can assure him that there is no divide across the Floor of the House on this issue. I shall work positively with him and with any local councillors who want to do so to attract more industrial investment to the Rhondda and to other parts of the valleys. The hon. Gentleman might like to know that the Welsh Development Agency is currently working on four possible schemes for his area. I just hope that they come to fruition, because I am sure that they would be welcome.

Mr. Ron Davies: When the right hon. Gentleman visits the Rhondda, will he take the opportunity to discuss with people there the impact that the split in the Cabinet is having on the economic prospects of south Wales? Earlier, he referred to his support for the Prime Minister, but he signally failed to mention his disagreement with the three leading policy makers in the Cabinet--the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade. Given the deep fissure in the Cabinet, is not the Secretary of State now merely on the outer fringes of policy making, in which position he can be of no use whatever to the people of Rhondda or of Wales?

Mr. Redwood: The hon. Gentleman is out to lunch again. He is not describing reality. All members of the Cabinet are central to policy making within the Cabinet. The Prime Minister speaks for us all, and extremely well, on the issues that the hon. Gentleman asks about.


12. Mr. Roy Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is the latest figure for male unemployment in Newport, Gwent and Wales in percentage terms.

Mr. Richards: In December 1994, the unadjusted male unemployment rate in Newport travel-to-work-area was 11.7 per cent. of the work force. The rates in Gwent and Wales were both 12.1 per cent.

Mr. Hughes: Does the Minister appreciate that Newport needs new jobs but not from Brown and Ferris, the American waste disposal company? Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate, too, that construction of the project is going ahead by stealth, and that the Secretary of State still has the power not to grant the company a licence? Will the Minister tell his right hon. Friend that, if he is so keen on the project, he should take it to his constituency of Wokingham?

Mr. Richards: All this has been most carefully considered. It is not a matter for me at present. I remind

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the hon. Gentleman that much good news has come to Newport recently, including 200 jobs to Electrotech from Thornbury and the 500 jobs that will come to Newport by 1997 from the Trustee Savings bank.

Mr. Knapman: Why is it that the areas most addicted to socialism remain the poorest despite having most public money directed to them?

Mr. Richards: My hon. Friend makes a valid point. We on the Government Benches always demand value for money. We want money well spent on the projects and policies for which it was intended. I have already given an example to the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) of what I regard as a waste of money.

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