John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
  Labour's "independent" investigators
The DTI have appointed "independent" investigators to further investigate what happened with MG Rover.

This will be the second "investigation". It will also be the second investigation to omit looking at the involvement of the DTI, The Labour Government and others in the Labour Party.

Questions that need to be answered include:

a) Did the government and or Labour Party cooperate with others in excluding independent community and workforce scrutiny at the start.

b) Why did noone take any action in 2003 when it was possible to improve the situation.

c) What involvement does the DTI have in causing the administration.
Monday, May 30, 2005
  Le vote français plonge l'Europe dans une période d'incertitudes
The vote in France on the Constitution does raise complex issues. Like many of these debates the issues that determined the vote were probably mainly nothing to do with the constitution itself.

Looking at the text it appears to be a bit messy and something generated very much for the convenience of the bureaucracy. The simplistic "pro-European" argument is that "something must be done" - "this is something" - "therefore this must be done".

I do like Graham Allen's approach which is one of revisiting the issue. The failure to agree the constitution has no immediate effect. However, we really do need to understand what we are trying to achieve.

Do we want a "light touch" Europe which maintains a customs union and economic union. Alternatively do we want something that in terms of an "ever closer union" gradually eradicates differences between different parts of the union as they get "ever closer".

I personally go for the first option. I am "pro-European" to the extent that I believe we should remain within the EU. However, that should be a decentralised "light touch" Europe.

The debate over the EU budget whether it should be 1% or 1.09% of GDP highlights the difficulty. The UK Labour MEPs want 1.09%, the UK Labour MPs want 1%. The same applies to other groups. Those people who personally participate in the mechanisms of the European Union take a view that more decisions should be taken at the centre.

To me the issue of "subsidiarity of subsidiarity" is the key issue. It is the question as to who determines the level at which a decision is to be appropriately taken.

Finding people who decide that they should not take a particular decision, but should leave it to someone else is difficult. In the absence of a very clear mechanism for ensuring decentralisation we should resist all attempts to streamline the centralisation of decisions. (eg the EU Constitution).
Sunday, May 29, 2005
  The European Constitution
With a bit of luck the French will kick the European Constitution into the long grass today. However, otherwise it is likely that the issues will start being considered in the UK relatively soon.

As with many of these debates the key issues will be swallowed up in an ill-informed debate concentrating on straight bananas and the like.

The key question for me is the balance of power between the centre and localities (be they the UK parliament, Various assemblies or local authorities).

The European Union was made into a Federal System by Margaret Thatcher with the Single European Act 1987.

The SEA introduced qualified majority voting into the Council of Ministers. Before that all governments had to agree substantial policies or they failed to be agreed.

Clearly there is a role for some Qualified Majority Voting. Within the EU there are three types of decision in the bodies where people are represented by governments.

With the EU being larger there is a greater chance of everything seizing up if we didn't have an element of QMV.

This, however, is the key question that balances out "Federalism" and "Subsidiarity".

The EU is a Federal system because, for some decisions, as introduced by Maggie Thatcher, decisions of the EU can be imposed on the UK (or any other country).

Subsidiarity means decisions being taken the lowest level. The problem, however, lies in the question as to who decides what is the lowest appropriate level for any one decision.

Ask a Eurocrat whether a decision should be taken in Brussels and you are likely to get a different answer from a Local Government Officer or even someone who is not involved in government.

The big problem with the European Constitution is that it allows more and more decisions to be taken at the centre gradually.

The Treaty includes in Article 24
Clause 4
"Where the Constitution provides in Part III for European laws and framework laws to be adopted by the Council of Ministers according to a special legislative procedure, the European Council can adopt, on its own initiative and by unanimity, after a period of consideration of at least six months, a decision allowing for the adoption of such European laws or framework laws according to the ordinary legislative procedure. The European Council shall act after consulting the European Parliament and informing the national Parliaments. Where the Constitution provides in Part III for the Council of Ministers to act unanimously in a given area, the European Council can adopt, on its own initiative and by unanimity, a European decision allowing the Council of Ministers to act by qualified majority in that area. Any initiative taken by the European Council under this subparagraph shall be sent to national Parliaments no less than four months before any decision is taken on it.

What this means (and it is found throughout the detailed constitution which is divided into four parts of which I include extracts following) is that gradually over time power can be centralised and there is nothing that citizens can do about it.

Yes there is a power to take a country out of the EU. That is, however, an all or nothing option.

Furthermore the setting of the budgetary framework is on the basis of QMV and can be changed to Majority voting. The defence policy is based upon unanimity and can be changed to QMV. The budget is important is even if the EU has a competency to do something if it doesn't have the money then it cannot.

I suppose one of my personal problems is that I don't believe in "creating an ever closer union" I do support the existance of the EU, but I believe it should be light touch and not get involved in too many things.

Extracts from the detailed constitution
Fundamental principles
1. The limits of Union competences are governed by the principle of conferral. The use of Union competences is governed by the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

2. Under the principle of conferral, the Union shall act within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the Member States in the Constitution to attain the objectives set out in the Constitution. Competences not conferred upon the Union in the Constitution remain with the Member States.

3. Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Union shall act only if and insofar as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level. The institutions of the Union shall apply the principle of subsidiarity as laid down in the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. National Parliaments shall ensure compliance with that principle in accordance with the procedure set out in that Protocol.

4. Under the principle of proportionality, the content and form of Union action shall not exceed what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Constitution.

The institutions of the Union shall apply the principle of proportionality as laid down in the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

Categories of competence
1. When the Constitution confers on the Union exclusive competence in a specific area, only the Union may legislate and adopt legally binding acts, the Member States being able to do so themselves only if so empowered by the Union or for the implementation of Union acts.
2. When the Constitution confers on the Union a competence shared with the Member States in a specific area, the Union and the Member States may legislate and adopt legally binding acts in that area. The Member States shall exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has not exercised, or has decided to cease exercising, its competence.
3. The Member States shall coordinate their economic and employment policies within arrangements as determined by Part III, which the Union shall have competence to provide.
4. The Union shall have competence to define and implement a common foreign and security policy, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy.
5. In certain areas and under the conditions laid down in the Constitution, the Union shall have competence to carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States, without thereby superseding their competence in these areas.

Legally binding acts of the Union adopted on the basis of the provisions in Part III relating to these areas shall not entail harmonisation of Member States' laws or regulations.
6. The scope of and arrangements for exercising the Union's competences shall be determined by the provisions relating to each area in Part III.

Areas of exclusive competence
1. The Union shall have exclusive competence in the following areas:
(a) customs union;
(b) the establishing of the competition rules necessary for the functioning of the internal market;
(c) monetary policy for the Member States whose currency is the euro;
(d) the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy;
(e) common commercial policy.
2. The Union shall also have exclusive competence for the conclusion of an international agreement when its conclusion is provided for in a legislative act of the Union or is necessary to enable the Union to exercise its internal competence, or insofar as its conclusion may affect common rules or alter their scope.

Areas of shared competence
1. The Union shall share competence with the Member States where the Constitution confers on it a competence which does not relate to the areas referred to in Articles I-13 and I-17.
2. Shared competence between the Union and the Member States applies in the following
principal areas:
(a) internal market;
(b) social policy, for the aspects defined in Part III;
(c) economic, social and territorial cohesion;
(d) agriculture and fisheries, excluding the conservation of marine biological resources;
(e) environment;
(f) consumer protection;
(g) transport;
(h) trans-European networks;
(i) energy;
(j) area of freedom, security and justice;
(k) common safety concerns in public health matters, for the aspects defined in Part III.
3. In the areas of research, technological development and space, the Union shall have
competence to carry out activities, in particular to define and implement programmes; however, the exercise of that competence shall not result in Member States being prevented from exercising theirs.

4. In the areas of development cooperation and humanitarian aid, the Union shall have
competence to carry out activities and conduct a common policy; however, the exercise of that competence shall not result in Member States being prevented from exercising theirs.
The coordination of economic and employment policies
1. The Member States shall coordinate their economic policies within the Union. To this end, the Council of Ministers shall adopt measures, in particular broad guidelines for these policies.
Specific provisions shall apply to those Member States whose currency is the euro.
2. The Union shall take measures to ensure coordination of the employment policies of the Member States, in particular by defining guidelines for these policies.
3. The Union may take initiatives to ensure coordination of Member States' social policies.
The common foreign and security policy
1. The Union's competence in matters of common foreign and security policy shall cover all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to the Union's security, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence.

Member States shall actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the Union's action in this area. They shall refrain from action contrary to the Union's interests or likely to impair its effectiveness.
Areas of supporting, coordinating or complementary action
The Union shall have competence to carry out supporting, coordinating or complementary action.
The areas of such action shall, at European level, be:
(a) protection and improvement of human health;
(b) industry;
(c) culture;
(d) tourism;
(e) education, youth, sport and vocational training;
(f) civil protection;
(g) administrative cooperation.

Flexibility clause
1. If action by the Union should prove necessary, within the framework of the policies defined in Part III, to attain one of the objectives set out in the Constitution, and the Constitution has not provided the necessary powers, the Council of Ministers, acting unanimously on a proposal from the European Commission and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, shall adopt the appropriate measures.
2. Using the procedure for monitoring the subsidiarity principle referred to in Article I-11(3), the European Commission shall draw national Parliaments' attention to proposals based on this Article.
3. Measures based on this Article shall not entail harmonisation of Member States' laws or regulations in cases where the Constitution excludes such harmonisation.

This institutional framework comprises:
– The European Parliament,
– The European Council,
– The Council of Ministers (hereinafter referred to as the "Council"),

The European Council

4. Except where the Constitution provides otherwise, decisions of the European Council shall be taken by consensus.

The Council of Ministers
1. The Council shall, jointly with the European Parliament, exercise legislative and budgetary functions. It shall carry out policy-making and coordinating functions as laid down in the Constitution.
2. The Council shall consist of a representative of each Member State at ministerial level, who may commit the government of the Member State in question and cast its vote.
3. The Council shall act by a qualified majority except where the Constitution provides otherwise.

Configurations of the Council of Ministers
1. The Council shall meet in different configurations.
2. The General Affairs Council shall ensure consistency in the work of the different Council configurations.
It shall prepare and ensure the follow-up to meetings of the European Council, in liaison with the President of the European Council and the Commission.

Configurations of the Council of Ministers
1. The Council shall meet in different configurations.
2. The General Affairs Council shall ensure consistency in the work of the different Council configurations.
It shall prepare and ensure the follow-up to meetings of the European Council, in liaison with the President of the European Council and the Commission.

3. The Foreign Affairs Council shall elaborate the Union's external action on the basis of strategic guidelines laid down by the European Council and ensure that the Union's action is consistent.
4. The European Council shall adopt by a qualified majority a European decision establishing the list of other Council configurations.
5. A Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States shall be responsible for preparing the work of the Council.
6. The Council shall meet in public when it deliberates and votes on a draft legislative act. To this end, each Council meeting shall be divided into two parts, dealing respectively with deliberations on Union legislative acts and non-legislative activities.
7. The Presidency of Council configurations, other than that of Foreign Affairs, shall be held by Member State representatives in the Council on the basis of equal rotation, in accordance with the conditions established by a European decision of the European Council. The European Council shall act by a qualified majority.

Definition of qualified majority within the European Council and the Council
1. A qualified majority shall be defined as at least 55% of the members of the Council, comprising at least fifteen of them and representing Member States comprising at least 65% of the population of the Union.
A blocking minority must include at least four Council members, failing which the qualified majority shall be deemed attained.
2. By way of derogation from paragraph 1, when the Council does not act on a proposal from the Commission or from the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs, the qualified majority shall be defined as at least 72% of the members of the Council, representing Member States comprising at least 65% of the population of the Union.
3. Paragraphs 1 and 2 shall apply to the European Council when it is acting by a qualified majority.
4. Within the European Council, its President and the President of the Commission shall not take part in the vote.

The Union Minister for Foreign Affairs
1. The European Council, acting by a qualified majority, with the agreement of the President of the Commission, shall appoint the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs. The European Council may end his or her term of office by the same procedure.
2. The Union Minister for Foreign Affairs shall conduct the Union's common foreign and security policy. He or she shall contribute by his or her proposals to the development of that policy, which he or she shall carry out as mandated by the Council. The same shall apply to the common security and defence policy.
3. The Union Minister for Foreign Affairs shall preside over the Foreign Affairs Council.
4. The Union Minister for Foreign Affairs shall be one of the Vice-Presidents of the
Commission. He or she shall ensure the consistency of the Union's external action. He or she shall be responsible within the Commission for responsibilities incumbent on it in external relations and for coordinating other aspects of the Union's external action. In exercising these responsibilities within the Commission, and only for these responsibilities, the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs shall be bound by Commission procedures to the extent that this is consistent with paragraphs 2 and 3.

Specific provisions relating to the common foreign and security policy
7. The European Council may, unanimously, adopt a European decision authorising the Council to act by a qualified majority in cases other than those referred to in Part III.

Specific provisions relating to the common security and defence policy
1. The common security and defence policy shall be an integral part of the common foreign and security policy. It shall provide the Union with an operational capacity drawing on civil and military assets. The Union may use them on missions outside the Union for peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. The performance of these tasks shall be undertaken using capabilities provided by the Member States.

3. Member States shall make civilian and military capabilities available to the Union for the implementation of the common security and defence policy, to contribute to the objectives defined by the Council.

Two Speed
Enhanced cooperation
1. Member States which wish to establish enhanced cooperation between themselves within the framework of the Union's non-exclusive competences may make use of its institutions and exercise those competences by applying the relevant provisions of the Constitution, subject to the limits and in accordance with the procedures laid down in this Article and in Articles III-416 to III-423.
Enhanced cooperation shall aim to further the objectives of the Union, protect its interests and reinforce its integration process. Such cooperation shall be open at any time to all Member States, in accordance with Article III-418.
2. The European decision authorising enhanced cooperation shall be adopted by the Council as a last resort, when it has established that the objectives of such cooperation cannot be attained within a reasonable period by the Union as a whole, and provided that at least one third of the Member States participate in it. The Council shall act in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article III-419.
3. All members of the Council may participate in its deliberations, but only members of the Council representing the Member States participating in enhanced cooperation shall take part in the vote.Unanimity shall be constituted by the votes of the representatives of the participating Member States only.

Budgetary and financial principles
1. All items of Union revenue and expenditure shall be included in estimates drawn up for each financial year and shall be shown in the Union's budget, in accordance with Part III.
2. The revenue and expenditure shown in the budget shall be in balance.
3. The expenditure shown in the budget shall be authorised for the annual budgetary period in accordance with the European law referred to in Article III-412.
4. The implementation of expenditure shown in the budget shall require the prior adoption of a legally binding Union act providing a legal basis for its action and for the implementation of the corresponding expenditure in accordance with the European law referred to in Article III-412, except in cases for which that law provides.
With a view to maintaining budgetary discipline, the Union shall not adopt any act which is likely to have appreciable implications for the budget without providing an assurance that the expenditure arising from such an act is capable of being financed within the limit of the Union's own resources and in compliance with the multiannual financial framework referred to in Article I-55.
6. The budget shall be implemented in accordance with the principle of sound financial management. Member States shall cooperate with the Union to ensure that the appropriations entered in the budget are used in accordance with this principle.
7. The Union and the Member States, in accordance with Article III–415, shall counter fraud and any other illegal activities affecting the financial interests of the Union.

The multiannual financial framework
1. The multiannual financial framework shall ensure that Union expenditure develops in an orderly manner and within the limits of its own resources. It shall determine the amounts of the annual ceilings of appropriations for commitments by category of expenditure in accordance with Article III-402.
2. A European law of the Council shall lay down the multiannual financial framework. The Council shall act unanimously after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, which shall be given by a majority of its component members.
3. The annual budget of the Union shall comply with the multiannual financial framework.
4. The European Council may, unanimously, adopt a European decision authorising the Council to act by a qualified majority when adopting the European law of the Council referred to in paragraph 2.

European laws shall establish the Union's annual budget in accordance with the following provisions:
1. Each institution shall, before 1 July, draw up estimates of its expenditure for the following financial year. The Commission shall consolidate these estimates in a draft budget which may contain different estimates.
The draft budget shall contain an estimate of revenue and an estimate of expenditure.
2. The Commission shall submit a proposal containing the draft budget to the European Parliament and to the Council not later than 1 September of the year preceding that in which the budget is to be implemented.
The Commission may amend the draft budget during the procedure until such time as the Conciliation Committee, referred to in paragraph 5, is convened.
3. The Council shall adopt its position on the draft budget and forward it to the
European Parliament not later than 1 October of the year preceding that in which the budget is to be implemented. The Council shall inform the European Parliament in full of the reasons which led it to adopt its position.
If, within forty-two days of such communication, the European Parliament:
(a) approves the position of the Council, the European law establishing the budget shall be adopted;
(b) has not taken a decision, the European law establishing the budget shall be deemed to have been adopted;
(c) adopts amendments by a majority of its component members, the amended draft shall be forwarded to the Council and to the Commission. The President of the European Parliament, in agreement with the President of the Council, shall immediately convene a meeting of the Conciliation Committee. However, if within ten days of the draft being forwarded the Council informs the European Parliament that it has approved all its amendments, the Conciliation Committee shall not meet.
5. The Conciliation Committee, which shall be composed of the members of the Council or their representatives and an equal number of members representing the European Parliament, shall have the task of reaching agreement on a joint text, by a qualified majority of the members of the Council or their representatives and by a majority of the representatives of the European Parliament within twenty-one days of its being convened, on the basis of the positions of the European Parliament and
the Council. The Commission shall take part in the Conciliation Committee's proceedings and shall take all the necessary initiatives with a view to reconciling the positions of the European Parliament and the Council.
6. If, within the twenty-one days referred to in paragraph 5, the Conciliation Committee agrees on a joint text, the European Parliament and the Council shall each have a period of fourteen days from the date of that agreement in which to approve the joint text.
7. If, within the period of fourteen days referred to in paragraph 6:
the European Parliament and the Council both approve the joint text or fail to take a decision, or if one of these institutions approves the joint text while the other one fails to take adecision, the European law establishing the budget shall be deemed to be definitively adopted in accordance with the joint text, or
(b) the European Parliament, acting by a majority of its component members, and the Council
both reject the joint text, or if one of these institutions rejects the joint text while the other one fails to take a decision, a new draft budget shall be submitted by the Commission, or
(c) the European Parliament, acting by a majority of its component members, rejects the joint text while the Council approves it, a new draft budget shall be submitted by the Commission, or
(d) the European Parliament approves the joint text whilst the Council rejects it, the European Parliament may, within fourteen days from the date of the rejection by the Council and acting by a majority of its component members and three-fifths of the votes cast, decide to confirm all or some of the amendments referred to in paragraph 4(c). Where a European Parliament amendment is not confirmed, the position agreed in the Conciliation committee on the budget heading which is the subject of the amendment shall be retained. The European law establishing the budget shall be deemed to be definitively adopted on this basis.
8. If, within the twenty-one days referred to in paragraph 5, the Conciliation Committee does not
agree on a joint text, a new draft budget shall be submitted by the Commission.
When the procedure provided for in this Article has been completed, the President of the European Parliament shall declare that the European law establishing the budget has been definitively adopted.
10. Each institution shall exercise the powers conferred upon it under this Article in compliance with the Constitution and the acts adopted thereunder, with particular regard to the Union's own resources and the balance between revenue and expenditure.

Voluntary withdrawal from the Union
1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article III-325(3). It shall be concluded by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
The Constitution shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in European decisions concerning it. A qualified majority shall be defined as at least 72% of the members of the Council, representing the participating Member States, comprising at least 65% of the population of these States.
5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article I-58.
  Blogs and the net
Political Hack a Birmingham based Labour Party activist jumps to my defence (thankyou) for writing a blog.

I did not see Paul Dale's Iron Angle column as actually being an attack on the concept of running a blog.

I run a blog for a number of reasons. It is an effective communication tool.

  1. I can put details on about issues relating to my constituency. They are then automatically indexed by the search engines so people can find current information.
  2. People who know I do this will know where to look.
  3. Although possibly 2/3rd of my constituents don't have access to net at the same time we are still putting out leaflets and the like.
  4. On a wider basis it prevents me from having to do press releases. Any newsworthy information can be put on the blog. I tend to work with a small number of journalists (eg Paul Dale, David Bell, Jonathan Walker, Jonathan Guthrie). This makes my life easier. If I have what I think a newsworthy story I will put it on the blog and talk to a specific journalist. National stories get picked up by the TV, Radio and press agencies from papers such as the Birmingham Post.

It does not take that much time to post blog entries (less than emailing a press release).

There is another advantage of a blog in that it allows arguments to be fully tested. The somewhat arcane argument that Sutton Coldfield is not a Birmingham Parliamentary seat because it is a Parliamentary Borough in itself is only one that would get fully tested on the net.

Sitting in the chamber of the House of Commons I have been surprised at how badly informed some MPs are (of all parties). It is only really on the parliament channel that the interventions can be properly picked up. Blogs are another mechanism for this.

At the end of the day Nam et ipsa scienta postestas est Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

I translate that as "For indeed in itself knowledge is power".

For knowledge, however, to be powerful it needs to be true.

The internet and blogosphere is also somewhere that you can follow another concept I find interesting that of the meme

Best described as a viral type concept it is the form of idea or concept that has sufficient inbuilt merit that it travels from mind to mind.

A publicity stunt can have a meme associated with it. A good example of this is the concept that 80% of people are gagged by the electoral process in that potentially their voices are not listened to by the government. This meme started being expressed by the use of gags (see this blog) and has been used elsewhere since.

There is a further question of "why the cats". To which my answer is "Why not"
Friday, May 27, 2005
  That oil question
The DTI claim the UK will be a net importer of oil by 2010. Using the figures from my answer of 2004 having 88 MTOE production and 82 MTOE consumption and taking the figures from the DTI website (see link) of 22.6 production in Q1 2005 as opposed to 25.5 production in Q1 2004 one would presume that the UK already is a net importer of oil in Q1 2005.
  An interesting answer about "surestart"
I asked where the SureStart centres would get the funding from after the government's 6 years funding stopped and the answer is:
"Centres would also be able to generate additional revenues by charging parents for some of their services such as childcare."

I have also heard today that I now have an office.

They have avoided the question on cuts in hospital beds.

I have done a graph following the Answer on oil production The government claim the UK will be a net importer of oil in 2010. The trend on a straightline basis from the answer is 2005. I have previously estimated 2007.

There are 16 universities that do degrees in culinary arts The challenge is where that relates to other cooking qualifications. My main concern is with the government encouraging people to spend money on a degree level qualification for a job that pays £15K (eg a Pastry Chef).

Interstingly I am getting the answers to my own written questions more efficiently from than from parliament directly. Then again I am working in Birmingham at the moment.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
  Robbers let off
The same story in the post

This story appeared on the blog a while ago. The problem arises when youths become aware that all they will get is a caution which then facilitates a substantial amount of crime. There is a role for cautions, but this is not it.

At the same time we need to link to communities to handle probation and community service issues. I have been working with people within the communities of Birmingham to look at behaviourial modification. The only certainty at the moment is that the current system does not work properly.
  Emigration rockets under Labour
Emigration has gone up substantially under Labour. It is clear that people are less happy living in Tony Blair's Britain.

The link is the first response to one of my Written Questions from last Friday. It shows an increase from just under 240,000 people a year in the mid 1990s to over 350,000 a year in 2002 and 2003.

I suppose from Labour's point of view many of these are not Labour voters.

It is an important issue because is relates to quality of life. There are people who have said to me that life in the UK is getting so aggressive that they want to leave (and are doing so).
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
  The key health debate
I find it interesting that perhaps the key health debate has not really hit the media. The question is how to organise the health service. Should we move everything towards "primary care" GPs. Alternatively should we be looking instead at creating more care through institutions.

There has been a heavier burden in recent years in Accident and Emergency units. Some of this is caused by the difficulties in booking appointments with GPs. Other aspects lie with the fact that there is total confusion as to how many people are actually registered with GPs in comparison to those who live in an area.

There are potentially a number of different strategies that could be adopted. That which finds favour in government at the moment is a substantial reduction in hospital beds - which will reduce hospital infection because people won't go to hospital.

There is some merit in this argument, but it seems to be driven far too strongly down the route of scrapping beds. (Which after all helps to hit the Gershon targets).

This is one of my first 24 written quesitons.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
  Liverpool Dispute
This dispute in Liverpool is interesting because it it not unique. I have heard of a large number of instances when Council Officers (and particularly senior council officers) have used the Standards Board as a threat against Councillors.

In at least three authorities the leader of the council has been removed from office for things which vary, but would not normally be judged as being corrupt.

In practise the whole system which involved sacking a Labour councillor for going out of the wrong door, sacking a Lib Dem Councillor for writing to an MP and suspending an independent councillor for being rude about officers undermines democracy.

Oddly enough MPs are allowed to be rude whilst councillors are not supposed to be rude however upset they are. With the Audit Commission applying tight constraints and targets on local authorities this government has massively undermined local democracy.

In a number of local authorities you end up with a situation in which there is a tension between the permanent staff who have their own agenda and that of the politicians who are there to hold the system to account and make it respond to the local citizens.

Another problem has been the need to declare invitations to events that you refuse. It is only supposed to involve events which cost more than £25, but on that basis rather than spend the time working out how much each event it I merely declare everything. This involves a large amount of work for absolutely no benefit.

Without question if someone offers a bribe it should be reported to the police, but if I am invited to a concert and don't go, I see no merit in reporting that.
Monday, May 23, 2005
  Moor St Station
The saga with Moor St Station is an example of the difficulties of coordinating large numbers of different organisations.

We have new platforms, but Network Rail won't sort out the signalling.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
  The 4x4 debate
As someone who both drives a Land Rover Discovery and also is a member of Greenpeace it strikes me that this is some form of confusion going on. Various Greenpeace activists (from outside Birmingham) disrupted the Moat Lane plant last week.

Greenpeace say:
"The Land Rover Discovery only does 12 miles per gallon in the city" that's from the web page linked above.

Land Rover say:
Urban L/100km (mpg) TDV6 Manual 11.5 (24.6) TDV6 Auto 13.2 (21.4) V8 petrol 20.9 (13.5)

Now my own vehicle does far better than 12mpg. Indeed the diesel figures are actually 24.6mpg for the Discovery 3 (that's for Urban motoring)

Greenpeace may be better arguing that people should buy diesel Discoveries as they do 24.6mpg rather than the petrol ones which do 13.5mpg.

I wonder if they have read the wrong column and are quoting the figures of the numbers of Litres required to do 100km.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
  Its a bit like nessie really
Danny Alexander who is MP for Inverness, Nairn, Something and Other (Badenoch and Strathspey for those who wish to know) also is MP for Loch Ness and hence the Loch Ness Monster (Nessie) is one of his constituents.

This cat:

is a bit like Nessie. Patches I have only managed to get photos of in a very blurred manner. However, in guarding bottles of booze Patches has stayed still.

It remains that there are two cats to go. They are rarer specimens. The one that the Labour Party have claimed is dead is in fact live and growling (it sort of growls in the middle of the night) and I may get another photograph of it.

In the mean time we have the Birmingham version of Monopoly in the House of Commons Library.
  What do these MPs have in Common?
William Hague, Eddie O'Hara, John Redwood, John Hemming, Chris Huhne, John Hutton, George Osborne, Dominic Grieve, Jeremy Hunt, Sion Simon.

(Also Viscount Eccles, but he is not an MP)

and does it matter?

I knew about some, but not all.
Friday, May 20, 2005
  Maiden Speech text
I have linked the text from Hansard of my maiden speech. The issue of the No 99 bus is quite an urgent issue. The difficulties arise from the 1985 Transport Act and the fact that it is difficult to plan bus services such that they work in a planned manner.

London is allowed to use sector tendering. Why is Birmingham required to have a free for all.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
  Maiden Speeches
One of the unwritten rules of parliament is that you are supposed to do a "maiden speech" before asking questions, writing amendments, Early Day motions or going into the ballot for a private members bill (which is next week).

I did my maiden speech today along with 3 other Lib Dems (David Howarth - Cambridge, Julia Goldsworthy - Falmouth and Camborne and Danny Alexander - Inverness, Nairn, something and other). I promised to put a copy of the Birmingham version of Monopoly in the House of Commons Library which I did after the debate.

Rob Flello (Stoke on Trent South) who used to be Birmingham City Councillor for Longbridge also did one as did another 3 Labour MPs and I think 2 Tories.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
  Make Poverty History
Today was a demonstration by the "Make Poverty History" campaign.

On Monday I spoke to a diplomat about the actions of Western Governments. He was quite cynical in that lots of nice words are spoken, but little action occurs. This is probably more to do with the nature of systems of government than anything else.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
  The Queen's Speech
The Queen's Speech really demonstrates why this government is so incompetent.

It seems quite clear to me that the government at the most senior level don't really understand what is happening on the ground. The normal systems of feedback are not operating properly. This was seen when the GP targets stopped people from booking appointments in advance.

One of the bills talks about having laws fade away. One hopes that this does not apply to Habeas Corpus which has been on the statute book since the 1600s.

On Health Improvement they really need to be looking at the way anti-biotics are handled. Too many diseases are developing resistance and still anti-biotics are prescribed for viral infections (at the request of patients). It really seems odd if statutory legislation is needed to improve cleanliness.

As far as getting private contractors into do NHS work they need to tread quite carefully. There can be systems of feedback that come in to undermine the core NHS and result in increased costs.

It is true that management in the public sector does not operate perfectly. That substantially is because of the amount of central bureaucracy and the lack of local discretion.

A very large number of the bills appears to be gesture legislation. People have a concern so the government - which is supposed to be running the executive - brings in legislation.

Clearly the legislation that was in existance for the past 8 years is wrong and needs to be changed. Who was responsible for that ... oh Tony Blair and his cronies.
  Opening of Parliament
There are many odd customs in Parliament. One is that one can only book a seat if you turn up and put a prayer card in. If you are not, however, in the chamber when it starts sitting then you lose your place.

Together with three other Liberal Democrat MPs from the Year of 2005 I took part of the vigil on the electoral system.

is a photograph of Steve Williams MP for Bristol West and myself.

Whilst uploading the images I found another cat.

Still no white persian though. There are, however, three cats to go.

I have also been sent the press release about the deportation last Sunday from the group that went to Israel. It appears following:
A group of seven women from Birmingham were barred from entering Israel and deported back to Birmingham from Tel Aviv airport last Sunday, after being threatened with imprisonment. They were going to deliver money raised at an ecumenical fundraising meal and money collected by the local Catholic Community for projects working with malnourished children. At the airport they were told that it is illegal to visit the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

As well as visiting holy sites such as the Church of the Nativity, the Holy Sepulchre and Al Aqsa Mosque the women were hoping to visit refugee camps, women’s projects and Israeli citizens working towards peace. The women were going on a tour of the Holy Land organised by the Birmingham Ramallah Twinning Committee, which would have provided opportunities for exploring the development of links with Women’s Groups in Palestine.

Yvonne Washbourne, President of the Birmingham Trades Council and spokesperson for the group said “We very excited about the visit as for most of us this was the first trip to the Holy land. We were shocked when members of the group were interrogated at Tel Aviv airport and the whole group was detained for many hours. We were treated like criminals, all but strip searched and one of our members was denied access to her luggage, which contained necessary medication. We were very frightened and disorientated when we were moved to a nearby detention centre.
We were told that unless we agreed to be put on the first flight back, we could be incarcerated for a week. Israeli security officials would not respond to enquiries from the British Consulate. Our passports were stamped with ‘entry denied’, which will make it difficult for us to return. However, we are determined to visit the Holy land in the near future and will be visiting the Israeli Embassy to obtain assurances that we will be allowed entry when we do. We will also be seeking legal advice about our treatment.”

Kamel Hawwash, Chair of the Birmingham Ramallah Twinning Committee comments,
“Israel’s disgraceful decision to deport the Group, is aimed at hampering our efforts to develop links between Brummees and Palestinians. Israel can do this because it continues to illegally occupy the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. This means that the outside world has no direct access to the occupied Palestinian areas. We are determined to continue with our peaceful efforts to develop these links. We call on our government to make the strongest possible protest to the Israeli authorities about the treatment of these women and call on Israel to reverse its decision to ban them from entering Israel in the future.”

The idea for the twinning has been developing since it was first suggested during a visit by a group of trade unionists in January 2003. It aims to twin the two cities but also to develop grass root links between organisations including those working in health, education and culture in Birmingham and Ramallah. The Committee is jointly sponsored by the Birmingham Trade Unions Council (BTUC) and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

There is a very significant level of support for the twinning initiative. The Committee have been in discussions with the City Council about ideas for developing further links between the two cities.

About one third of Palestinian children are severely malnourished, as Israel tries to stop support and aid from reaching Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza

Four of the women were being sponsored by their Trade Union branches and the others had funded the visit themselves.

Back to me:
I have also confirmed with the Boundary Commission that their next set of proposals for the West Midlands will be reported publicly on 28th June 2005. The importance of keeping Yardley together will be part of my maiden speech which I have now requested from the Speaker's Office.
Monday, May 16, 2005
  Press release on Democratic Mandates
Research commissioned by John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, has revealed that the democratic mandate (proportion of citizens voting for the government) of the Blair Government is the lowest of the Countries that are members of G8 and lowest of all, but Poland in the EU.

Taking all the countries in the EU and G8 only Poland's government has weaker support in the electorate at 19%. The elections in Poland, however, resulted in a minority government. Only four countries the UK, Poland, Latvia and Canada had support from less than 1 in four of the electorate with Latvia's government having slightly more support than the Blair government. Canada, however, also has a minority government.

The Czech Republic, Ireland, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia has support from between 1 in 4 and 3 in 10 of the electorate. The USA, Japan, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Sweden has support between 3 and 4 in 10 of the electorate. Only Austria, Belgium, Malta, Netherlands, Cyprus and Russia had support of more than 4 in 10. France's second round elections had support for the winner of 65.5% of the electorate, but the first round only had 1 in 4 support.

"This shows clearly how low the number of people is that supported Blair", said John Hemming, "he clearly does not have a democratic mandate for any radical changes against the will of the other parties in parliament. One area he needs to urgently consider is to ensure that we move towards a proper democratic system for elections."

(I know this all exists earlier on the blog, but this is the form of the press release. There is a vigil tomorrow on Electoral Reform and another vigil on Wednesday on Make Poverty History, both of which I hope to attend.)
  John Hemming MP swears in
At about 3.30pm today I swore allegiance to the crown and to adhere to the law. I personally have no great problem with the system of constitutional monarchy.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
  Why Labour are missing the point on Yobbery
On Tuesday 10th May at about 3pm two youths snatched an I-pod off a 15-year old lad on the Coventry Road near the Swan Shopping Centre. He contacted his mother who then drove after the bus towards Sheaf Lane in Sheldon where she confronted the theives. She then chased them down the Coventry Road towards Topps Tiles whilst taking to the police. Three police cars were involved and the two youths (aged 15/16) were arrested. This was not an isolated incident. Four similar incidents had occurred in the same location in the last two weeks.

The Crown Prosecution service decided that they could not prosecute because there was no actual violence. The youths were let off with a caution. It is clear in this instance that there was fear on the part of the victim. Theft from a person is one of the most frightening experiences.

This incident (which is not isolated) gives an example of why it appears that Tony Blair's Government are in power, but unable to actually influence what happens. Tony Blair wants to ban hoodies. There may be locations where people use hoodies and baseball caps to hide and I would not oppose the right of the Bluewater shopping centre to ban people from using such mechanisms of disguise. In the mean time, however, when theives are caught and identified the government has established rules that result in the criminals being let off with a caution. Blair as usual is going for the wrong target. He is bringing in the fashion police rather than enforcing the law.

We as a society have to say that we will not tolerate these sorts of offences. At the moment the message to the criminals is that society does not care if they do this sort of thing.

I will, of course, make this point directly in parliament as soon as I am permitted to do so. (I need to swear in and then make my maiden speech first). If any media people wish the contact details for the mother I can provide them. She is happy to talk to the media.

In the mean time I will write to Tony Blair. I will refer to the above and say:
It is clear that Labour do not understand how to govern this country. You have now been in power for 8 years and serious offences involving intimidation are still happening without the CPS agreeing to prosecute. Rather than change the name of the DTI why not change the name of the CPS to the "Can't prosecute service". That would be more honest.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
  Warning - don't cycle your (tebbit) bike too far
One interesting case at today's advice bureau was where someone had gone to work in Bulgaria for just over 3 months. On return they are deemed to be "Not Habitually Resident" in the UK and as such cannot get benefits.

Perhaps this is a mechanism used by Tony Blair to increase emigration.

This should, however, be an easy case to sort.

Another interesting case was a group of Brummies who were deported from Israel. Superficially it appears the main reason was that one of them had visited Pakistan.
Friday, May 13, 2005
  Labour miss the point
I share the view of the Electoral Reform society that Labour's announced changes to the postal vote regulations are "too little too late".

It would be possible to structure a system where postal ballots are distributed by post, but (for people able to walk) cast in a mixture of advance polling stations at useful locations then collated and returned by election day.

Alternatively we could just take the Northern Irish option. Labour are ignoring the issue of intimidation and "undue influence". I wonder why?
Thursday, May 12, 2005
  Shortage of Beds causes operations to be cancelled
To quote from the article:

Andrew Walker, director of operations at Good Hope Hospital, said the trust was striving to cut cancellations.
"The main reason for cancellations was lack of beds, which reflects particular pressures we face," he said. "We have seen a particularly high growth in A&E attendances. This has led to a record rise in emergency admissions, putting particularly heavy pressure on our bed capacity.

In the mean time the Strategic Health Authority is planning to cut bed numbers.
  Different democratic mandates in EU countries
Latest EU parliamentary/presidential elections: Votes for ruling party/coalition
Votes % of registered voters (a) % of the voting age population (b)
Austrian People's Party 2,076,831 35.1% 32.1%
Freedom Party of Austria 491,328 8.3% 7.6%
Coalition total 2,568,159 43.4% 39.7%
Flemish Liberals and democrats 1,009,223 13.3% 12.6%
SP.A-Spirit 979,750 12.9% 12.2%
Socialist Party 855,992 11.3% 10.7%
Reformist Movement 784,954 10.4% 9.8%
Coalition total 3,629,919 47.9% 45.4%
Czech Republic
CSSD 1,440,279 15.3% 18.4%
Koalice 680,671 7.3% 8.7%
Coalition total 2,120,950 22.6% 27.1%
Left, Liberal Party of Denmark 974,636 24.3% 23.6%
Conservative people's party 345,343 8.6% 8.4%
Coalition total 1,319,979 32.9% 32.0%
Estonian Centre Party 125,718 14.8% 11.7%
Estonian Reform Party 87,650 10.3% 8.2%
Estonian People's Union 64,470 7.6% 6.0%
Coalition total 277,838 32.7% 25.9%
Finnish Centre 689,147 16.3% 16.6%
Finnish Social Democratic Party 682,819 16.2% 16.4%
Swedish People's Party in Finland 128,617 3.0% 3.1%
Coalition total 1,500,583 35.6% 36.1%
Social Democratic Party of Germany 18,488,688 30.1% 27.9%
Green 2,694,027 4.4% 4.1%
Coalition total 21,182,715 34.5% 31.9%
New Democracy 3,359,058 34.7% 42.6%
Hungarian socialist party 2,295,851 29.2% 30.3%
Alliance of free democrats 310,582 3.9% 4.0%
Coalition total 772,957 33.1% 34.3%
Fianna Fail 772,957 26.2% 28.8%
Progressive Democrats 73,718 2.5% 2.7%
Coalition total 846,675 28.7% 31.6%
Forza Italia 10,923,431 23.9% 23.1%
National alliance 4,463,205 9.8% 9.4%
Northern League 1,464,301 3.2% 3.1%
CCD-CDU 1,194,040 2.6% 2.5%
Coalition total 18,044,977 39.5% 38.1%
People's Party 165,449 11.1% 8.9%
Union of Greens and Farmers 93,748 6.3% 5.0%
Latvia First Party 94,833 6.4% 5.1%
Coalition total 354,030 23.9% 19.1%
Labour Party 340,035 12.8% 11.1%
Working for Lithuania 246,852 9.3% 8.1%
Farmers' Party - New Democratic Party78,902 3.0% 2.6%
Coalition total 665,789 25.0% 21.8%
Luxembourg(c) - - -
Nationalist Party 146,171 49.7% 52.3%
Christian Democratic Appeal 2,758,649 22.9% 22.5%
People's Party for Freedom and Democracy 1,702,183 14.1% 13.9%
Democrats 66 391,329 3.2% 3.2%
Coalition total 4,852,161 40.3% 39.5%
SLD-UP 5,342,519 19.0% 18.8% minority 216 seats out of 460
Socialist Party 2,573,654 29.3% 33.0%
SKDU 433,953 10.4% 10.1%
SMK 321,069 7.7% 7.5%
KDH 237,2025.7% 5.5%
ANO 230,309 5.5% 5.4%
Coalition total 1,222,533 29.4% 28.4%
SDS 281,134 17.2% 18.2%
NSI 87,057 5.3% 5.6%
LSL 65,944 4.0% 4.3%
Coalition total 434,135 26.6% 28.1%
Spanish Socialist workers' Party 11,026,163 32.9% 34.9%
Workers' Party Social Democrats 2,113,560 31.9% 30.6%
Labour 9,556,183 21.6% 20.6%
Tassos PAPADOPOULOS -Democratic party 213,353 44.8% 38.6%
France (Second round of elections)
Jacques Chirac -RPR5,665,855 65.5% 62.0%

Note: This table shows parliamentary elections for all EU states
other than for presidential or semi-presidential systems where the results from presidential elections are shown.
  1. The accuracy/currency of electoral registers varies greatly between these counties. Where, for instance, they include a significant number of deceased voters the percentages shown will underestimate the true figure.
  2. A number of the voting age populations are for the previous national election. In such cases the rates are over estimates if the population is increasing and vice versa. This explains why some of the rates in this column are higher than those in the column based on registered voters.
  3. Elections in Luxembourg are divided into four multi-member circumscriptions. Voters may vote for as many candidates as the circumscription elects Deputies. The number of voters for each list therefore cannot be stated.
  4. Provisional results excluding Staffordshire South.
Sources:,, www.election,
  General Election Declarations of Identity Not available
Interestingly whereas it is possible to inspect the Declarations of Identity for up to 6 months after a local election, the General Election Declarations of Identity have been packaged up and sent off to Hayes.

This makes checking the situation even harder.

Incidentally this is my first blog entry typed from inside the Parliamentary Estate. I have now got my communication systems working properly and in such a manner as I expect to work for the next n years. (where n is not necessarily an integer)
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
  UK Government has weakest electoral mandate in G8 countries
CountryTurnoutGovt's percentage of voters
Spain (not G8)77.232.9
Canada60.922.4 (hung parliament)
(modified following helpful comment)
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
  A visit to Downing Street
One of the issues that is clear from the General Election is that we need to change the electoral system as well as the procedures for casting votes. To highlight this issue I today sent a letter to Tony Blair.

The letter said:
I note that only 1 in 5 of British Citizens voted for your party in the General Election. Many of these voters were voting tactically. This clearly shows that you do not have a democratic mandate. Has the time not come for changing the electoral system for parliament to enable that governments have the positive support of citizens.

I also arranged for 5 people to show the effects of the current system.

Only 61.3% of people voted. The figure in Germany was just over 79%. With Labour's vote at only just over 35% the percentage of the electorate voting Labour is 21.57%.

Out of 5 people, therefore, roughtly 2 didn't vote. One voted for Blair, one voted Conservative and One voted for Lib Dems (and others).

I also handed in the letter to Tony Blair.

Earlier in the day we had visited Downing Street to see what could be done now that the Country has to have heavy security and had breakfast on Whitehall.

Today I managed to work out how to handle my post, dealt with all the urgent post, resolved my new parliamentary email address and sorted out the phones system. I also managed to appoint two members of staff and start the process of making contacts with the media. I have been up to the date with casework emails throughout.

I also find that I cannot use the parliamentary network system to get email from outside parliament, which is a bit silly, but I can live with it. They are so heavily bureaucratic in parliament that it is not surprising that the country is overloaded with bureaucracy.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
  VE Day
I spent much of today at the VE Celebrations in Victoria Square with the brood. The children quite enjoyed the street party as did many other thousands of people who were there. I took out an hour or so to go to the Eid Millad un-Nabi celebrations in South Yardley ward at which I spoke about VE day.

It does appear that the government are not really inclined to learn from history.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
  First Advice Bureau
This morning I took the speakers on tour around the Consituency to thank mt constituents. I spent a short time at the Yew Tree using the Radio Mike to talk to my supporters.

At 11am was the first advice bureau. The advice bureau is held at the usual location for Saturday advice bureaux ie 1772 Coventry Road.
Friday, May 06, 2005
  Thankyou 13,648 times to the people of Yardley
As the newly elected MP for Yardley I am intending to start my campaign of listening to the people of Yardley. Sadly, however, today I need to attend a funeral. The campaign will, therefore, start tomorrow.

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I have not posted anything for a few days. I have been a bit busy.

However, normal service will resume in the near future (and hopefully a picture of more of the cats).

Name Party Votes % +/- %
John Hemming Liberal Democrat 13,648 46.4 +8.1
Jayne Innes Labour 10,976 37.3 -9.6
Paul Uppal Conservative 2,970 10.1 -3.0
Robert Purcell British National Party 1,523 5.2 +5.2
Mohammed Yaqub UK Independence Party 314 1.1 0.0
Majority 2,672 9.1
Turnout 29,431 57.7
Sunday, May 01, 2005
  "Political Hack" on wrong tail of cat (I am not Blofeld)
"PoliticalHack" a Labour Party activist who secreted a camera in our underground centre of world domination in Sheldon believes:

Is John Hemming really some kind of Blofeld character? Is the plan for a Birmingham underground system just a cunning distraction from his real plans? An undercover camera took this picture in Yardley yesterday at the Coventry Road office...

To confirm that two of the cats for which I pay the food bills are not white persians here are the photos:
Waif and Kitty are two of the six cats that can be found prowling the Hemming residence from time to time. Neither, as can be seen, are white persians notwithstanding smears from the Labour Party.

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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Published, promoted, and printed (well not really printed I suppose, more like typed) by John Hemming, 1772 Coventry Road, Birmingham B26 1PB. Hosted by part of 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View, CA 94043, United States of America. This blog is posted by John Hemming in his personal capacity as an individual.

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