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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Philip Hammond) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Our Armed Forces make great sacrifices on the nation's behalf, not only on operations overseas, but in their service in the UK too. This Government recognise that the nation in turn has a responsibility properly to support them and their families. That is why the Armed Forces Act 2011 recognises the Armed Forces covenant in law for the first time, and creates an obligation on the Defence Secretary to publish an annual Armed Forces covenant report.
The Government are today publishing an interim Armed Forces covenant annual report, in advance of the statutory requirement created by the Act. It has been compiled in consultation with the Covenant Reference Group, which brings together officials from across Government with service charities and family federations. The interim report covers the full scope of the Armed Forces covenant, published on 16 May 2011, and provides a baseline for future statutory reports.
On 16 May 2011 we also published The Armed Forces Covenant: Today and Tomorrow, copies of which are available in the Library of the House. This document outlines the commitments made by the Government in support of the covenant. In contrast, today's interim report is focused on recording progress and a broad survey of areas of interest and concern. These include housing, education, healthcare and the operation of inquests, as the statutory Armed Forces covenant report will from next year. It also considers whether our service men and women are disadvantaged in their ability to access public services, or whether in any areas there is a case that special treatment is justified, and again the statutory report will do the same.
Recognising the key role played by the Covenant Reference Group, the Government have committed themselves to publishing, alongside the annual report, any observations which the external members of the group might have on it. The external members have offered their observations on this interim report, and they are reproduced within it. They have drawn attention not only to the progress which has been made, but also to how much remains to be done. The Government welcome their constructive input and will take careful note of the points made. We are extremely grateful to them for their continued engagement and assistance, as we jointly take work forward on the Armed Forces covenant.
The Armed Forces covenant is a matter for the whole of Government, and sustained progress requires both close collaboration across Whitehall and clear ministerial leadership. My right honourable friends, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, have therefore agreed to establish a new ministerial committee, led by the Minister for Government Policy, the right honourable Member for West Dorset, (Oliver Letwin) to oversee this work and ensure that momentum is maintained. The Prime Minister will chair the first meeting of this new committee early next year. This new forum will work closely with the Covenant Reference Group, whose key roles including monitoring progress and holding the Government to account will be unchanged. I will chair an annual joint meeting between
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Council heard that Eurogroup had agreed the sixth tranche of funding for Greece under its assistance package. It also received an update on the options for leveraging the European Financial Stability Facility. Council then discussed bank capital and funding, following up on the European Council of 26 October, and agreed that capital requirements needed to be met without deleveraging. I made it clear that if required, funding schemes needed to be at national level. This was agreed. I also called for early discussion of progress on the Capital Requirements Directive.
France provided a debrief of the Summit. They confirmed that the major topic of discussion had been the euro area crisis and that the EU had been urged to agree a comprehensive approach to the crisis. They also noted that the Summit had discussed ways of increasing IMF resources.
The Commission presented its second Annual Growth Survey and set out five key priorities: fiscal consolidation (whilst taking account of the need for growth and for differentiation between Member States); restoring normal lending conditions, with particular attention to SMEs; completing the single market; reforms to modernise labour resources (in particular ensuring wages better reflect productivity, improving labour mobility, and addressing youth unemployment); and efficient public administration.
The Commission presented two legislative proposals and a discussion paper. The first of the legislative proposals relates to strengthening budgetary surveillance within the euro area, particularly for Member States in excessive deficit. It would require euro area Member States to submit their draft national budgets to the Council and the Commission by 15 October of the preceding year for assessment. The second proposal is a draft regulation on the surveillance of euro area Member States experiencing severe financial disturbance. It set out a process of more comprehensive monitoring for Member States receiving a programme of financial assistance from EU and IMF-backed funds. Such monitoring could also be applied to Member States not receiving assistance but considered to be at risk.
The Commission discussion paper proposed three options for stability bonds: full substitution of national issuance by stability bonds with joint and several guarantees; partial substitution of national issuance with joint and several guarantees; or partial substitution of national issuance with several but not joint guarantees. The Commission noted that stability bonds would create a deepening of economic and monetary union and this would need to be accompanied by parallel measures to strengthen economic governance. Some options would also require treaty change. The Commission said that it would prepare further steps on euro area economic governance by the end of 2011.
This was added to the agenda as a result of discussion over breakfast. Council adopted a recommendation on the nomination of Benoît Coeuré of France, to replace Lorenzo Bini Smaghi of Italy, who has announced his resignation.
Council discussed Conclusions addressing the need for impact assessments of proposed EU legislation, and for all such legislation to take account of the need to ensure sustainable public finances and create jobs and growth. The UK intervened to support the Conclusions. After much discussion Conclusions were agreed with a number of amendments.
The President of the Court of Auditors presented their report. In the auditors' view, the Budget presents fairly the position and cashflow of the EU, although there remains scope for improvement. Control systems are only partially effective and overall there has been an increase in the level of errors. The Commission highlighted that the report showed progress had been made. The UK, the Netherlands and Sweden all expressed concern at the increased error rate. The Presidency noted the report, which will be further considered by Council in February 2012, when Ministers will vote on discharge of the 2010 accounts.
Council adopted Conclusions welcoming the report of the European Statistical Governance Advisory Board and inviting the Commission to put forward proposals regarding the professional independence of national statistical authorities and Eurostat.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Children and Families,
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The consultation has shown broad support for the Government's proposals for a reformed EYFS, implementing the recommendations of Dame Clare Tickell's independent review. The reforms will reduce paperwork and bureaucracy for professionals; focus attention on the areas most essential for children's healthy development; support early intervention with children who face difficulties; and secure a stronger partnership with parents.
The government response confirms our plans, including simplified assessment at age 5 and a new progress check for children aged 24 to 36 months, focused on the most important areas of children's development. We also set out how we propose to refine the early learning goals (in particular literacy and maths), and minor changes to the guidance on assessment at age 5 to ensure it is relevant to all children including those with special educational needs and disabilities.
I am launching an additional one-month consultation on the EYFS early learning goals and educational programmes, and the relevant statutory instrument. This further consultation is required by the Childcare Act 2006.
The new early years framework is an important element in our plans to ensure families in the foundation years are supported, to give children the best possible start in life, and to ensure that all children have the knowledge and skills that provide the right foundation for their future progress through school and life. The revised EYFS statutory framework (and the associated regulations) will be published in spring, to enable schools and other providers to prepare for implementation of the new EYFS from September 2012.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries (Richard Benyon) has today made the following Statement.
On 12 September 2011, I launched a supplementary consultation on the detail of the order to transfer the functions of British Waterways (BW) in England and Wales to a new waterways charity, the Canal & River Trust (CRT). The consultation closed on 24 October 2011.
Today, I am announcing the publication of the Government's response to this consultation, which is available at http://www.defra.gov.uk/consult/closed/
The consultation asked for views on the detail of certain aspects of the transfer order. The majority of responses to the consultation supported the overall direction of the Government's proposals, and, subject to obtaining parliamentary approval in due course, the Government intend to proceed as follows:
In addition, the Government intend, also subject to parliamentary approval, to apply the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the CRT, in respect of all those statutory functions that the CRT will inherit from BW through the proposed transfer order. This limited application of the FOIA will have the effect of excluding from the provisions of the Act those broader charitable functions carried out by the CRT. It will also exclude bodies that merge with the CRT, unless the FOIA already applies or is made to apply to them at the point of merger.
Recognising that, as concerns administrative burdens, this will initially put CRT in a potentially disadvantageous position with regard to other statutory navigation authorities, the Government will, within two years, launch a procedure, under Section 5 of the FOIA, to consider extending the provisions of the Act to other statutory navigation authorities, with the intention of creating a level playing field.
In these circumstances, the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs) may be considered to apply to the CRT to the extent that the CRT is carrying out "functions of public administration". Ultimately, this will be a question for the courts to decide. In the mean time, I have asked the CRT trustees to make a public commitment to adopt a transparency policy that closely follows the provisions of the EIRs; we are seeking to capture this commitment in the funding agreement being negotiated between Defra and the CRT trustees.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My honourable friend the Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs (Edward Davey) has today made the following statement.
Trade Ministers met immediately before the Eighth World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference to take a number of decisions related to the conference, notably the accessions of Russia and Samoa to the WTO and the Least Developed Countries Services Waiver, as well as to approve the mandates for Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs) with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.
The main items for discussion were the position to be taken by the European Union on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), the future path of the WTO and the negotiations on the revision to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). There was broad agreement on the former, in particular the importance of messages on resisting protectionism, on strengthening the WTO and maintaining its relevance for tackling 21st century issues, and on the need for an active negotiating agenda in order to deliver "early harvests" of those areas that were most advanced in the DDA such as trade facilitation.
The UK, supported by the majority of Member States, called for the EU to conclude the 10-year long process of reviewing the Government Procurement Agreement. I argued that a successful deal would pave the way for the opening of negotiations with China on its possible future accession to the GPA. I also stressed the value of obtaining a business-friendly deal at such a critical moment for the EU and the WTO.
The Conference agreed to Russia's accession to the WTO after an 18-year negotiation. Agreement was also given to accession by Samoa and Montenegro. All will become Members of the WTO during 2012 when domestic ratification is complete. With the approval of the accession of Vanuatu earlier this year, this will take the WTO's membership from 153 to 157. Samoa and Vanuatu are the first Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to join since 2004.
The Conference also agreed a waiver from WTO rules to allow preferential market access to LDC providers of services, extended the deadline for LDCs to bring in rules to protect intellectual property, and agreed provisions aimed at speeding up LDCs' membership negotiations. Members also reaffirmed their commitment to working towards the implementation of promises on Duty Free Quota Free Access (DFQF) and cotton, first made at MC6 in Hong Kong in 2005.
Finally, the 42 signatories to the Government Procurement Agreement (a plurilateral agreement within the WTO framework allowing access to each others' procurement market) agreed, after 10 years of negotiation, a revision to the Agreement. The deal expanded market access within the signatories, including, for the EU, access to €100bn worth of PFI contracts related to reconstruction in Japan.
On the Doha Development Agenda negotiations the agreed Chair's summary noted that negotiations were at an "impasse", that Members had "significantly
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This item was for Member States to agree to a Council position to enable a First Reading deal to be reached with the European Parliament on the Commission's proposed RSPP (EM 13872/10). The Council adopted this position without substantive comment.
This item was an exchange of views based around three questions on the above proposal as detailed in my Pre-Council Statement and was the only item that resulted in a roundtable debate. I intervened as indicated in my Pre-Council Statement.
The Commission stated that it will publish a comprehensive internet security plan during 2012, the aim of which will be to: ensure that IT-related products and services are designed, to survive cyberattacks; and ensure that Member States computer emergency response teams can exchange information more freely, thus allowing them to co-operate more effectively.
The Council broke after the ENISA item for lunch. During the lunch, there was a debate on the issue of whether broadband should be added to the Universal Service Directive, with debate framed by the three questions posed by the Presidency as detailed in my Pre-Council Statement. This debate was prompted by the publication of the Communication from the Commission on the results of the public consultation on the role of the universal service obligation in electronic communications. (EM17466/11)
I intervened along the lines set out in my Pre-Council Statement. Member States generally welcomed the decision by the Commission to leave to them when to decide to introduce a universal service obligation that would include broadband.
After lunch, the Council then considered the adoption of the Council Conclusions that cover the recent Communication entitled The open internet and net neutrality in Europe. (EM9350/11). The Conclusions were adopted without any substantive comment. However, I did intervene to highlight the self-regulatory initiative that UK stakeholders were engaged in.
My only intervention under AOB was on item A. I intervened as per my Pre-Council Statement by stating that the Commission should bring forward actions that lead to the creation of a true pan-European Digital Single Market. Other Member States including Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden also highlighted the importance of this issue during similar interventions.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Mr Andrew Lansley) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Today I am publishing policy updates on the new public health system, covering local government's new public health functions and the operating model for Public Health England (PHE). Subject to the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill, PHE will be established in April 2013.
The Government have an ambitious programme to improve public health through strengthening local action, supporting self-esteem and behavioural changes, promoting healthy choices and changing the environment to support healthier lives.
The updates define the Government's plans, set out in the White Paper Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our Strategy for Public Health in England, in November 2010, to change the way that public health is delivered nationally through establishing Public Health England as an executive agency and locally, through moving responsibility and accountability for public health to local government.
These reforms will see local authorities taking the lead for improving health and co-ordinating local efforts to protect the public's health and well-being, and ensuring health services effectively promote population health. Local political leadership will be central to making this work.
In Healthy Lives, Health People: Update and Way Forward, published in July 2011, we included commissioning of termination of pregnancies as one of the areas for which local authorities will be responsible. I have now reflected further on whether it would be appropriate for local authorities to be responsible for commissioning procedures that will involve surgical procedures and the associated need for strong clinical governance arrangements to ensure people receive a safe, legal service. I therefore intend to consult on whether commissioning termination of pregnancies should in the longer term be the responsibility of clinical commissioning groups or local authorities. In the interim, as a practical measure, CCGs will be responsible for commissioning these services for April 2013.
The update documents have been placed in the Library. Copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. The updates are also available at http://healthandcare.dh.gov.uk/category/public-health.
On 2 November the Chief Secretary to the Treasury made a Statement to the House setting out an improved offer on public service pensions to public sector workers (Cm 8214). This offer provided a more generous cost ceiling for scheme-specific discussions to work within, and protected all those within 10 years of their pension age from any further change. This generous offer was conditional on the Government and trades unions reaching agreement by the end of the year, including in the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme, bringing to a conclusion talks that have lasted since February 2011.
Since 2 November I and my officials have been engaged in detailed and intensive talks with the National Trade Union Committee for the Civil Service. I can now report to the House on the heads of agreement on the scheme design for the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme to be introduced in 2015, on which talks have concluded. The Government have made clear this sets out their final position on the main elements of scheme design, which the FDA, Prospect, GMB, Prison Governors Association and the Immigration Services
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Scheme members who, as of 1 April 2012, have 10 years or less to their current pension age will see no change in when they can retire, nor any decrease in the amount of pension they receive at their current Normal Pension Age. They will be allowed to remain members of their existing schemes up to and including the point at which they draw their pension rights and all current scheme rules will continue to apply.
Members who are within a further 3.5 years outside this protected group will have an additional degree of protection, in the form of further accrual in their existing schemes. This protection will be tapered in a linear fashion depending on the age of the member.
Discussions with the Trades Unions identified above will continue early next year, to shape the remaining elements of the scheme design such as abatement, re-employment, treatment of re-joiners and public sector transfers and contribution rates structures including years 2 and 3 of the employee contribution increases. Any of these issues that affect the final cost of the scheme will need to be taken into account in the final rate of benefit accrual. The requirement to fit the new scheme within the revised cost ceiling for the Reference Scheme published on 2 November will remain, and agreement on these issues will also be subject to review by HM Treasury to agree the approach taken to risk management and impact on cash flows.
The Government Actuary's Department has confirmed that this scheme design does not exceed the cost ceiling set by the Government on 2 November. Copies of the heads of agreement and the scheme actuary's verification have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Eric Pickles) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 2 November the Chief Secretary to the Treasury made a Statement to the House setting out an improved offer on public service pensions to public sector workers (Cm 8214). This offer provided a more generous cost ceiling for scheme-specific discussions to work within, and protected all those within 10 years of their pension age from any further change. This generous offer was conditional on the Government and trades unions reaching agreement by the end of the year, including the Local Government Pension Scheme in England and Wales, bringing to a conclusion talks that have lasted since February 2011.
Since 2 November, I have been engaged in talks with the local government trades unions and the Local Government Association (LGA) to enable purposeful discussions on local government pensions reform. I can now report to the House on the Heads of Agreement signed jointly by the local government trades unions and the LGA on the principles governing the scheme design, ongoing cost management and governance of the new Scheme to be introduced in 2014. Further work on these agreed principles will commence in the New Year under the supervision of a newly appointed Project Board representing key Scheme partners. The Government have made clear this sets out their final position on the main elements of scheme design, which unions have agreed to. This includes a commitment to
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Mr Andrew Lansley) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 2 November the Chief Secretary to the Treasury made a Statement to the House setting out an improved offer on public service pensions to public sector workers (Cm 8214). This offer provided a more generous cost ceiling for scheme-specific discussions to work within, and protected all those within 10 years of their pension age from any further change. This generous offer was conditional on the Government and trades unions reaching agreement by the end of the year, including in NHS Pension Scheme, bringing to a conclusion talks that have lasted since February 2011.
Since 2 November I have been engaged in detailed and intensive talks with the health trades unions and employer representatives. I can now report to the House on the heads of agreement on the scheme design for the NHS Pension Scheme to be reached in 2015, on which talks have concluded. The government have made clear this sets out their final position on the main elements of scheme design, which unions have agreed to take to their Executives as the best that can be achieved through negotiations. Further work on the remaining details will take place in the new year, and Executives will consult members as appropriate. This includes a commitment to suspend any further industrial action while the final details are resolved and unions are consulting their members.
On the basis that the scheme design within the heads of agreement is agreed, the Government agree to retain Fair Deal provision and extend access to public service pension schemes for transferring staff. This means that all staff whose employment is compulsorily transferred from the NHS under TUPE, including subsequent TUPE transfers, will still be able to retain membership of the NHS Pension Scheme when transferred. These arrangements will replace the current provisions for bulk transfers under Fair Deal, which will no longer apply. In addition, a partnership review of the implementation of the provisions set out in this paragraph for staff working in "Any Qualified Providers" (AQP) will be carried out.
The Government Actuary's Department has confirmed that this scheme design does not exceed the cost ceiling set by the Government on 2 November. Copies of the heads of agreement and GAD verification have been placed in the Library.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 2 November the Chief Secretary to the Treasury made a Statement to the House setting out an improved offer on public service pensions to public sector workers (Cm 8214). This offer provided a more generous cost ceiling for scheme-specific discussions to work within, and protected all those within 10 years of their pension age from any further change. This generous offer was conditional on the Government and trades unions reaching agreement by the end of the year, including in the Teachers' Pension Scheme, bringing to a conclusion talks that have lasted since February 2011.
Since 2 November I have been engaged in detailed and intensive talks with the teacher and lecturer trades unions and employer representatives. I can now report to the House on the heads of agreement on the scheme design for the Teachers' Pension Scheme to be introduced in 2015, on which talks have concluded. The Government have made clear this sets out their final position on the main elements of scheme design, which unions have agreed to take to their Executives as the outcome of negotiations on the main elements of scheme design. This includes a commitment to seek Executives' agreement to the suspension of any industrial action on pension reform while the final details are being resolved. Further detailed work will take place in the New Year and Executives will consult members as appropriate.
The agreement includes changes to the Government's reference scheme to reflect the priorities of the teaching profession in relation to early retirement and other
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The Government Actuary's Department has confirmed that this scheme design does not exceed the cost ceiling set by the Government on 2 November. Copies of the heads of agreement and GAD verification have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
On 15 August, I wrote to ask Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Denis O'Connor, to undertake a review of public order policing and to consider further work to support clearer guidance to forces on the size of deployments, the need for mutual aid, pre-emptive action, public order tactics, the number of officers (including commanders) trained in public
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HMIC recognise that the events of August 2011 were "unparalleled in terms of speed, scale and geographical spread of disorder". HMIC also recognises the achievements of the police in bringing the disorder under control and in particular, the individual acts of bravery displayed by police officers across the country.
The report confirms that the initial response, in particular to the disorder which broke out in Tottenham, was too slow. This has been acknowledged in the interim reports released by the Crime and Victims Panel and by the Metropolitan Police themselves.
This review makes a number of interrelated recommendations which will require careful and serious consideration by the Government and the police service working together. This work will be aligned with the development of the Strategic Policing Requirement.
The way in which the police respond to public disorder is a matter of key public interest. The August disturbances brought havoc to some of our cities and communities. HMIC has, in a short time, produced a wide-ranging and detailed report and this is to be commended. The report contains a significant amount of detail and evidence which will require detailed assessment by the Government and the police service as a whole.
On 10 October 2011, I announced to the House that the Scotland Office would lead efforts to secure a long-term replacement for the emergency towing vessels (ETV) service in waters surrounding the Northern Isles and Western Isles. Extensive discussions have since taken place with a very wide range of interested parties, including senior representatives of the oil and shipping industries as well as public sector organisations.
I am pleased to confirm that the North Sea oil industry, led by Oil & Gas UK and its member companies, has indicated its willingness to offer support by establishing a call-off arrangement for their chartered vessels to be deployed in support of HM Coastguard in the event of an emergency. Detailed work is underway between operators, vessel owners and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on working practices and necessary protocols governing the arrangements. During the last meeting of the Scottish ETV working group, I discussed the matter in depth with Oil & Gas UK, local authorities and other interested parties which have responded positively to this proposal. With that in mind, I have
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This is a very positive development offering additional reassurance to local communities, particularly those in the Northern Isles. This step also demonstrates active support by the oil industry for corporate social responsibility and I greatly welcome its helpful contribution and constructive engagement.
The Government intend to use the remainder of the £3 million funding provided by the Department for Transport to maintain cover until no later than 31 March 2012. Further work will continue with local authorities along the west coast to examine all viable long-term options for those waters, and I will reconvene a further meeting of the working group early in the New Year.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning (John Hayes) has today made the following Statement.
The review has concluded that the existing arrangement of a statutory post holder should be replaced with a more traditional Executive Agency model. This is consistent with the Government's wider commitment to radically improve the transparency and accountability for all public services, providing clarity and focus to the work of the agency and ensuring that skills and apprenticeship programmes are delivered within an overarching strategic framework set by government.
The Skills Funding Agency will continue to play a vital role in funding the education and skills training that our country needs to tackle the very real challenges that lie ahead; and the outcome of this review reflects the Government's ongoing commitment to building on the strength of the further education system, whilst ensuring rigorous accountability structures are in place.
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