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I want also to touch on some of the comments made by Members. The hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson) made a tremendously thoughtful speech, much of which I agree and sympathise with. I do not go all the way with him, however. He is a strong supporter of the organic movement, and it has a great part to play, but what he did not do—I would welcome a debate on
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this on another occasion—is address the fundamental dilemma that organic production has lower yields than conventional systems. If we are worried about food security and total production, that crucial dilemma must be dealt with.

The hon. Gentleman also rightly referred to the abuse of words such as “fresh”, “natural” and “pure”. I am reminded of the recent Cardhu whisky case involving the difference between pure malt and single malt whisky, which eventually had to be resolved by legislation. There is clearly room for a lot more work there.

My hon. Friends the Members for Eddisbury and for South Norfolk (Mr. Bacon), both former promoters of similar legislation, made clear their understandably intense anger that the Government have not taken the matter forward. My hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk referred to the operation of the market and the need for the Government to push much harder in Europe.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Bill Wiggin) put forward a number of other issues, including tuberculosis, regulations and the cider tax, all of which need to be addressed. The TB issue was also referred to by the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Dan Rogerson).

Finally, my hon. Friends the Members for Clwyd, West (Mr. Jones) and for Westbury (Dr. Murrison) again emphasised the importance of local food and proper labelling, and my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury made a pertinent comment about the export of cruel and lower standards to other countries if we operate ahead of others.

Much has also been said about food security, and I hope the Minister who responds to the debate will answer some fundamental questions. The Secretary of State has been in post for more than one and a half years, yet all that seems to have changed is the rhetoric. His predecessor, the current Foreign Secretary—presumably until the present Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs gets promoted, as seems to be the fashion in this Government—said in this House that food security was achieved by importing from many different countries. That was met with laughter and astonishment. We have had new rhetoric from the current Secretary of State, at the Oxford farming conference and last week before the National Farmers Union, that he wants to increase domestic production—no ifs, no buts. That is what he said.

What are we to make, however, of DEFRA’s website? We find pages dedicated to further reform of the common agricultural policy and to the document published in December 2005, “A Vision for the Common Agricultural Policy”, which was signed off by the then Chancellor, now Prime Minister, and the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, now the Minister for Housing. That document is still published on DEFRA’s website as the Government’s vision for the CAP, and I quote, as I have before in debates in this House, the following statement:

Nobody pretends it is sufficient, but not necessary? Who do we believe: the Secretary of State with his new rhetoric or the Prime Minister himself?

24 Feb 2009 : Column 258

The Secretary of State’s argument is to increase domestic production, no ifs, no buts, as long as the consumer wants it and it is environmentally sustainable. We support that. Who in their right mind would not support it? However, the Secretary of State left out in his proclamations of the last couple of weeks a number of other ifs and buts: “If you can comply with all the regulatory burden; if you can afford the extra storage to comply within the nitrate vulnerable zone regulations; if you can find time to do any farming after you have filled in all the Government forms.” There are also a few more buts: “But the Government won’t help you to combat TB; but they will charge you for disease control; but you still won’t get your money when other countries do; but we will demand repayment if we overpay you—you’ll pay up at once; but we won’t demand British standards for public-procured food; but you will have to face increased integrated pollution prevention and control or IPPC, you will have to face electronic identification or EID, and you will have to face the availability of pesticides.”

There are a lot more buts that the Secretary of State left out, one of which is that we are at the butt end of this Government. They are content to remain in office until the very last moment, but we have learned from this debate that they are prepared to let farmers and consumers suffer while they twiddle their thumbs. The final but is that it is time for the Government to butt out.

9.50 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): I thank the House for a generally balanced and interesting debate. Once again, I welcome the Opposition spokesmen—with one exception—to their new roles. Comment was made that this Front-Bench team was charming. I was going to begin my remarks by saying that the Opposition Front Benchers were charming and a little disarming, although those last comments were not.

The debate has covered an issue that is of concern not only to all involved in the food sector, but to consumers in this country. Rightly, food and how it is produced has never been so high on the public agenda. Why is that? It is because the food market is changing rapidly, and people want and rightly demand healthy, nutritious products produced with a low environmental impact, from sustainable sources and with high standards of animal welfare, clear provenance and environmentally sound distribution. Many of those factors have been raised in this debate. We must also be cognisant of the fact that people also want their food to be convenient and good value. That is a challenge, but for those across the supply chain it is also a unique opportunity. We want to support producers, farmers and everyone in the supply chain to take advantage of this opportunity. That is the only way in which we will build a healthy, thriving agricultural sector.

Opposition Members provided some interesting examples of where they feel that labelling has gone wrong—indeed, there was almost product placement of Marks and Sparks, Birds Eye, and the Co-op and the farmers market in Arundel, which I know we shall all be visiting—but I think that we all agree on the main principle: that we should do all that we can to help British consumers make an informed choice about what they buy and to buy British and support British farmers by choice.

24 Feb 2009 : Column 259

The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) made a speech that was very thoughtful in places, but he seemed to be urging us to go back to the sixties a bit, with price fixing at farm gates. His contribution was well-meaning and thoughtful, but consumers will take note and will probably panic at the idea of a Lib Dem Minister pricing the pork off the dinner table in times of economic downturn. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner), who I believe is in his place, in an intervention urged him to think again, but in another re-run of decades ago suggested that the solution was getting out of Europe. Both approaches—turning our back on Europe or turning our back on the hard-pressed consumer—are a retreat from reality.

The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) suggested that when Labour came to power we not only had an antipathy towards rural areas, but we actually despised them. That would come as a surprise to the chair of my local farmers union. In 1997—I know that the hon. Gentleman arrived in this place two years later—there were 120 Labour MPs representing rural seats, all advocating hard on behalf of their constituents. He also urged us to show leadership. Is that leadership to get out of Europe or into isolation in Europe? Which would be the better for farmers and which would be the better for consumers?

The hon. Member for Leominster (Bill Wiggin), with whom I have regularly debated various issues in different roles, was very angry. I wondered what my right hon. Friend the Minister had done to wind him up, because he is not normally so angry. We were urged to show determination, and I agree that we need to show determination, as this is a real issue. The hon. Gentleman also spoke up for Hereford beef, which is indeed world class. Together with Welsh Black beef and others, it is recognised for its quality and how it is produced.

The hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Bacon) raised valid concerns about the pig industry. He made some thoughtful comments, but in an apparent Freudian slip he said that it has not had the “protection”. He instantly corrected himself, saying that that was not the right word, and he was right. I hope that the House agrees that the last thing that would be in the interests of our farmers, producers, retailers and consumers would be to withdraw into some sort of protectionist mentality. The hon. Gentleman insisted that we will not argue the case with the Commissioner— [ Interruption. ] We will argue the case with the Commissioner, but let us do so on a case with which we have a scintilla of possibility of success, as opposed to the wording of the Conservative motion.

The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Dan Rogerson) is the chair of the all-party cheese group. I would have dearly loved to have recommended to him my father-in-law’s pecorino and ricotta, which were lovingly made from sheep’s milk on a farm nestling in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, but it is unfortunately now out of production, and I do not have to declare an interest. The hon. Gentleman made some thoughtful and useful comments on nutritional information that enriched the debate that we have had this evening.

The hon. Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Jones) paid tribute to the lamb from his constituency. He knows that Welsh lamb as a brand—like Hereford and others—has
24 Feb 2009 : Column 260
succeeded in overcoming many obstacles by clearly identifying its origin as a mark of quality and integrity. That is why people search it out. The hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison) spoke with passion about mandatory labelling, but the Opposition’s proposal is unworkable.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) rightly reminded the House of the importance of food security, which can often get lost in technical debate, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson), in an intelligent and cogent analysis of the issue from the common-sense perspective of the consumer. His speech was wide ranging: he managed to combine the car industry and the Cumberland sausage—I hesitate to say it, but they are two good examples of British bangers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South argued for a mandatory system to counter the exploitation of labelling and the consumer. There are several ways to do that. We can do it through working with the EU, as we are doing. We can do it by working with producers and the food chain in the UK, as we are doing. We can also explore what else can be done on mandating, but not as in the proposal in the Opposition motion, which would be bound to fail. The question for the Opposition is whether they want us to ignore the ways in which we can make progress now—in Europe and with British retailers and farmers. The problem is that sitting here as legislators, they see legislation and regulation as the only answer. It is the classic issue of a workman who has only a hammer in his toolbox, so everything looks like a nail. We need to use all the tools at our disposal.

As my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has made clear, we need to help people to buy British if they wish and if they choose. For the past 10 years, the Government have been at the forefront of helping consumers to make informed choices. We have established the Food Standards Agency, we have brought into being the traffic light system and we have set out tough guidelines on country of origin labelling—

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con) claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Question put accordingly (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the original words stand part of the Question.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. Speaker: I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.

The House having divided: Ayes 212, Noes 300.
Division No. 40]
[9.59 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter

Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Nadine
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Howell, John
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McCrea, Dr. William
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Rogerson, Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David

Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Alan
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Timpson, Mr. Edward
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Sir Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

James Duddridge and
Jeremy Wright

Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
David, Mr. Wayne
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank

Drew, Mr. David
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, rh John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, rh Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, rh Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
Mason, John
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGrady, Mr. Eddie
McGuire, rh Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Meale, Mr. Alan
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, rh Mr. Jim
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon

Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purnell, rh James
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, rh Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Ward, Claire
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, rh Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wishart, Pete
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Chris Mole and
Helen Goodman
Question accordingly negatived.
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