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Page last updated at 12:50 GMT, Sunday, 2 May 2010 13:50 UK

David Cameron - 'Difficult decisions must be taken'

On Sunday 2 May Andrew Marr interviewed David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives.

Please note 'The Andrew Marr Show' must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives
David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives

ANDREW MARR:

So is there the slightest chance of hearing more straightforwardly about the tough stuff ahead - if you like the colder side of the street? The man whose party is ahead in the polls, David Cameron, is with me now. Welcome.

DAVID CAMERON:

Good morning.

ANDREW MARR:

In the Sunday Times, you were asked about this quite often repeated piece of analysis that the cuts to come are going to be more drastic, have to be more drastic than any government has managed to put through in a five year period since the Second World War.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well there are undoubtedly going to be some very difficult and tough decisions, and that's why we were the first party to say that public spending would have to be reduced. We were the first to say that it was an unsustainable path. We were the first to identify some of the difficult areas - not just the easy things like getting rid of ID cards and regional assemblies and waste and the rest of it - but actually difficult things like, for instance, having a public sector pay freeze for a year. So it is going to be difficult. But what I want to explain to people is that in making these decisions, I want to, if I'm elected, take the whole country with me. I don't want to leave anyone behind. The test of a good society is you look after the elderly, the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest in our society. And that test is even more important in difficult times, when difficult decisions have to be taken, than it is in better times.

ANDREW MARR:

Let me take you through the figures, if I may. You would broadly speaking agree with the IFS assessment, Institute For Fiscal Studies assessment, that by the end of the coming parliament, you need to find something like £52 billion of cuts a year?

DAVID CAMERON:

We don't accept the assessment in full because of course for instance they don't take into account the fact that, compared with the other parties, we're starting earlier. We believe that you need to roll up your sleeves, get on with the job.

ANDREW MARR:

They say they do take that into account.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well no they don't actually because they don't take into account savings in terms of cutting wasteful spending in the current year, which does make a difference.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) So what figure, what rough figure would you go for? I mean are they broadly speaking right, just a bit high?

DAVID CAMERON:

We don't … What we've said is £6 billion of net savings in the current year, which puts us on a different pathway. We've then identified, as I say, some of the difficult decisions that have to be taken in big areas like pay and pensions and benefits. We haven't produced overall figures, and I've said very clearly that it isn't possible to explain everything that has to be done from the position of opposition where you have a government that hasn't even set out three year spending plans. We don't even have anything to measure against for 2011 or 2012.

ANDREW MARR:

But if the investment banks and the economists and the think tanks and all the outside gurus can come up with pretty clear figures and feel pretty secure about them, you must have some idea of what you need to do?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well we know difficult decisions have to be taken and, as I say, that's why we've outlined what some of them are. Not just saying you know things like contact point databases and ID cards and assemblies and all that. We've actually … You can't really deal with spending …

ANDREW MARR:

Sure.

DAVID CAMERON:

… unless you do look at big areas like pay and pensions and benefits, and we have in each of those areas said some of the things that need to be done.

ANDREW MARR:

Yes.

DAVID CAMERON:

I think that's important. And also I'd say …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Would you accept the IFS figure at least on the total that you've announced so far of spending cuts, which they say is about 11, 11.3 billion, something like that?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well, no, I don't really accept that either because of course one of the very big decisions that we've taken, which is to say that people … men starting from 2016 will have to retire a year later, now of course that decision lies outside the next parliament …

ANDREW MARR:

It does.

DAVID CAMERON:

… but it's a very significant decision. It's a bold decision. I think it's right because we are living longer.

ANDREW MARR:

Sure, but they're talking about …

DAVID CAMERON:

And that does …

ANDREW MARR:

I'm sorry, they're talking about the next five years, the next parliament that we're about to elect, and they say on that basis it's about 11 billion.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well they have their figures and we've produced our own figures. As I say, they don't take into account what we do in the first year in terms of cutting and wasteful spending.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) You see if you do a bit of sort of basic long division, which I've been struggling to do, and take those as very rough figures, you've announced about 17 or 18% of the bad news, so there's about 80% of the bad news coming which you haven't told us about yet. And what I put to you is that if you don't go further and you're elected, then that is going to produce such cynicism about politics. You know you want to clean up politics, you want people to take politicians more seriously and trust more. If 80% of the bad news is still hidden, they're going to be pretty angry afterwards.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well I don't really accept that analysis because I can't remember a time in my political lifetime when an opposition party from opposition has said public spending has to be cut. We're going to make cuts in the current year in terms of wasteful spending. We're going to do things like, I'm afraid, have a public sector pay freeze for a year. These are things that no opposition party has ever said. And we're doing this at a time - this is a really important point - when the government is not even setting out a three year spending plan and where, let's be frank about it, and where anything that we do say is taken by the Prime Minister, who should be acting responsibly but instead is acting completely irresponsibly, is taken by him, twisted and put into the most misleading way. I mean one of the points …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) I can understand that you have a real problem. It's the middle of an election campaign. The public don't like hearing bad news.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well let's take one example …

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

DAVID CAMERON:

… because I think this is important. If you take the example of the child tax credit, which we think is a good thing; we want to keep it. We've said though because of the mess Gordon Brown has left us in families earning over £50,000 won't be getting the child tax credit. Now I think that is a reasonable thing to say because we want to protect the neediest, we want to protect people on middle and modest incomes. Now the Prime Minister in that television debate said - and I quote almost exactly - he said we were planning to take child tax credit away from the poorest families in our country. That is simply not true. He knows it's not true, but he goes ahead and says it anyway. So that is the context …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) The taper, the taper however on that …

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) But that's important.

ANDREW MARR:

… runs from 31 to about …

DAVID CAMERON:

Actually it runs from 41 …

ANDREW MARR:

Which is actually quite a lot of ordinary families. People on 20 grand a year will be hit.

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) Yes but people, people earning … No, that's actually not the case. (Marr tries to interject) Anyway £50,000 for a family income, that is not … The Prime Minister said "the very poorest families."

ANDREW MARR:

Certainly not the very poorest.

DAVID CAMERON:

Absolutely. But this is the context in which this whole debate is being held …

ANDREW MARR:

Okay …

DAVID CAMERON:

… and I want to reassure …

ANDREW MARR:

Just come back to this point about the scale …

DAVID CAMERON:

Yuh.

ANDREW MARR:

… because everybody from the outside says the scale of the cuts or tax rises or both is outside anything most people will have experienced. It's more drastic than what Margaret Thatcher did. And you know I've sat through this campaign, I've been watching. You know your current posters are all about spending more money on cancer drugs and spending more money on this and spending more money on that. There is a disconnect …

DAVID CAMERON:

Well actually …

ANDREW MARR:

… between what has to happen and what all politicians, including yourself, have been telling us.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well that's not true about our posters if you take one particular one, which is about a central issue about how we're going to save money, which is actually stop handing out so much welfare to people who can work but who refuse to work. Now as we try and make savings in our country, one of the first things we should be doing is yes spending money on training people, helping them to get jobs; but if people refuse to take a job they could do, we say you have to actually reduce their benefits. Now that is actually an important saving. That's on a poster up and down the country. That's making a point about how we could have good government costing you less under the Conservatives, if you like. So I don't really accept that bit of analysis either.

ANDREW MARR:

Well all I would say is I've been talking to politicians about exactly this issue going back to the Thatcher years and through the Major years and through the New Labour years, and people keep saying we're going to get more people off benefits and we're going to deal with it …

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) Well they've never really had proper sanctions.

ANDREW MARR:

… and they haven't done it.

DAVID CAMERON:

It's because no-one's ever had … We're saying very clearly if you refuse the offer of a job that you could do, you lose first a month of your out of work benefits, then three months, and then up to three years. Now no-one has ever had a proper sanction of saying you cannot go on like this; you can't go on living a life on welfare if you could work. Now that is a very big change. It's a bold change. But I think as I go up and down the country, one of the questions alongside Mps' expenses that comes up everywhere you go …

ANDREW MARR:

Sure.

DAVID CAMERON:

… is why do we have this situation where "I'm paying my taxes", people say to me, "for people who refuse to work"?

ANDREW MARR:

Would you, just going back to my original point, do you accept that we are facing in this country reductions the like of which we have never seen before?

DAVID CAMERON:

It is incredibly challenging, there's no doubt about it. This hasn't been done in recent times. I completely accept that. I've also accepted - and I think this is important - that what we've said from opposition, bold though I think it is - we will reduce public spending, we'll start making some changes this year, we've told you some of the difficult things - I do accept that's still not enough to fill this enormous black hole left by Gordon Brown and Labour. I accept that.

ANDREW MARR:

So tell me a little bit about the rest of it then.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well because it's going to mean … We've said which departments we will protect and that's the NHS, which for me and for many families in this country absolutely comes first. That's vitally important people know that. We've said what we said about international development because of the sort of country I want this to be - tolerant, compassionate, generous to people who live in deep, deep poverty. But other departments, there will be difficult decisions. But what I can tell you is any cabinet minister if I win the election, if we win the election, who comes to me and says, "Here are my plans" and they involve frontline reductions, they'll be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again. After thirteen years of Labour, there is a lot of wasteful spending, a lot of money that doesn't reach the frontline. One of the things if you spend time with nurses and doctors and teachers, they will tell you about their own frustrations about the huge waste of Whitehall, the bureaucracy, the box ticking, the processes that they would love to see reduced so actually they can get on and do their job.

ANDREW MARR:

But if that is not enough by itself, I mean the kind of things that others (the Irish, the Greeks, before that the Swedes who you went over to see) have done are actually reducing, cutting public sector pay. I think the Irish are doing it between 5 and 15%. Is that a possibility?

DAVID CAMERON:

No, we've said a pay freeze is the best thing to do for a year in the public sector, excluding the million lowest paid workers. That makes a significant saving. It helps you save jobs. It's the right thing to do.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But not enough?

DAVID CAMERON:

I accept … Another thing we're doing, which the other parties haven't addressed, is start with ourselves. You know if we win the election on Thursday, you know from Friday …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) That's tiny.

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) No, but there's a very important …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) In terms of the overall pain, it's tiny.

DAVID CAMERON:

There's a very important issue here, which is I think the country is crying out for some decisive leadership to deal with this issue and to try and take people with us. We'll never take people with us unless we start with a cut in ministers' pay, a cut in the size of the House of Commons, a cut in the bureaucracy of Whitehall and the quangos. This is important because we need to say to the country these are difficult decisions.

ANDREW MARR:

And you've …

DAVID CAMERON:

I want to lead us through to a better future. I'm going to make sure no-one is left behind; that we protect the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. We do have to take difficult decisions, but let's start with some leadership and some gumption which we're not seeing at the moment.

ANDREW MARR:

That will be particularly difficult to achieve given that you've said that you want 80% of the pain to come from spending cuts and 20% from tax rises. Now back last time Ken Clarke did it more or less 50/50 between the two. I put it … I'm asking is that 80/20 split absolutely hard and fast?

DAVID CAMERON:

No, what we've said is that if you look at international studies and international work, that sort of proportion is better than other proportions in terms of getting a good, strong growing economy, which actually is a vital part of deficit reduction.

ANDREW MARR:

Sure, but it's not hard and fast.

DAVID CAMERON:

We're not dogmatic about this, but we do think that the government is overdoing planned tax rises and that's why we've put our fire power … If you want to judge us in terms of what our values are, we've said right let's make savings in waste this year to stop that part of the national insurance increase that hits the lowest paid and that hits the lowest paid workers. That's the sort of party we are. That's the sort of leader I am. That's what we want to do.

ANDREW MARR:

Sure.

DAVID CAMERON:

We cannot stop the extra, the top rate of tax; we can't stop the raid on better off people's pensions and the rest of it. Some of those things will have to go ahead.

ANDREW MARR:

This is a country on the edge of meltdown economically. We could lose our AAA rating. The banks are watching. You know all of those rating agencies are watching very, very carefully and holding their fire for the moment. But something pretty huge is going to have to happen to convince the world that you're going to get this, if you're Prime Minister, in order. And what I'm saying to you is we've had nudges and winks and little bits and this and that. We haven't really had the main meal.

DAVID CAMERON:

I don't really accept that. I think that if you have a Conservative government on … If you have an election on Thursday and a new Conservative government on Friday, starting to roll up its sleeves, get … I want … You know by the time you're having this programme next Sunday, I want a government to be in place starting to make decisions, starting to get the economy moving, actually starting to do things rather than the muddle and fudge we could otherwise have. And I think if the rest of the world and the country can see a government that says right, we're going to start with ourselves, we're going to make cuts at the centre, we're going to do things this year to stop wasteful spending …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) They'll come with you.

DAVID CAMERON:

… to stop the tax rises, we're going to actually - and we've said some of the difficult things that have to be done - you can take people with you. Now you compare that with the other two parties. They are actually saying this year - 2010 with all the threats we face - do nothing, do absolutely nothing about this problem. I think that's completely irresponsible and wrong.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay. VAT. The Greeks have had to raise it twice so far this year. It is an obvious way of starting to plug the gap pretty quickly. And again all the economists looking at it said well that is something that is just going to have to happen. You haven't ruled that out. That is a possibility, isn't it?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well what we've said is we think that the government's plans rely too heavily on tax rises and don't actually do enough in terms of cutting out wasteful spending, and so we want, we're actually … we think that spending needs to bear more of the burden. So we don't have plans to raise VAT.

ANDREW MARR:

But you can't sit there and say to me we're not going to raise VAT?

DAVID CAMERON:

I've said when I've …

ANDREW MARR:

That would be wrong.

DAVID CAMERON:

I've said we don't have any plans to raise VAT, it's not part of our plans. And the key thing here is this. You know I've said ever since I became Leader of the Opposition over four and a half years ago, you can't forever rule out any tax rise, otherwise you get yourself into a position where you might have an unstable and dangerous economy. But VAT is not something we want to do.

ANDREW MARR:

You've said there'll be in the first period of a Conservative government an emergency budget within fifty days, so pretty much before parliament breaks for the summer.

DAVID CAMERON:

Yuh.

ANDREW MARR:

If you did have a VAT rise in that budget people would be pretty angry …

DAVID CAMERON:

Well that budget …

ANDREW MARR:

… given what you're saying now.

DAVID CAMERON:

… that budget is about getting the economy moving. I mean this is … You know actually we did have the big economy debate in this election and I think actually the Conservatives have won the argument on the economy. That's what Gordon Brown wanted us to have. We had it on Thursday and I think we won that argument. Our emergency budget is about saying to new businesses take on ten people. You don't have to pay national insurance on them. It's about trying to get rates of corporation tax down for small businesses and large businesses by abolishing some of the reliefs on allowances. It's about putting up a sign over the British economy that says open for enterprise, open for entrepreneurs. We've got to get things moving and at the moment we are absolutely stuck with a government and an economy that's not moving.

ANDREW MARR:

Well you're not really telling us much more about how you're going to deal with the deficit, but let's move onto that first hundred hours, hundred days and so forth. If you're elected with a majority next week, what's the first thing that happens apart from going to see the Queen?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well the first thing is, I believe, we need a proper war cabinet sitting as a war cabinet from day one. The National Security Council properly formed and focused to do that job because we're fighting a war in Afghanistan and I want to make sure, if elected, that everything that needs to be done to get equipment and material to the frontline does happen to put Whitehall on a war footing. And I think that is an important thing to do. And also - I've said this before - I think opposition party leaders should go to that war cabinet not monthly but several times a year, so actually we bring the country together in how we prosecute this war and bring our troops back home. One other thing I also think we need to do is recognise with the country in the danger and the difficulty it is now, we need a government that gets on with the job. And so, yes, I want to see that budget to get the economy going, yes I want to see that war cabinet to make sure we're getting Afghanistan right, but also I think we've got to get rid of these absurd parliamentary holidays and start making parliament work like the rest of the country does. So if we win the election, there'll be obviously the budget and the Queen's speech stretching into July, and parliament should be back in September actually getting the work done of solving our social problems, getting the economy going, cleaning up politics instead of this absurd you know three month holiday that currently the government is planning.

ANDREW MARR:

So that goes and that's clear. What about the cabinet itself? Do you know what your cabinet's going to look like? Do you have a sense … I mean when Tony Blair came in in 1997, I think almost everybody moved straight from their opposition portfolios into that department. Will it be the same this time?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well I have a very strong team behind me. I've built that up over four and a half years. They're all there for a very good reason. I think that they would work extremely well. But I'm not … As well as not taking anything for granted - I've got a very, very intense four days to go to try and win this election decisively - I'm not handing out jobs or guarantees.

ANDREW MARR:

Nobody's got a promise at this stage?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well I've said certain things about key people, which I think people know about, but …

ANDREW MARR:

So William Hague Foreign Secretary, George Osborne Chancellor?

DAVID CAMERON:

You're not going … You can try very hard to pull me further down that line, but I'm not going to …

ANDREW MARR:

Alright.

DAVID CAMERON

… not going to go there.

ANDREW MARR:

What about the running of government itself? Will you have a Prime Minister's office? Are you going to ask senior civil servants to obey the key people around you from opposition, as Tony Blair did - the orders and counsel business?

DAVID CAMERON:

I believe the style of government I aspire to is one of quiet effectiveness. I think we've run government in the last thirteen years as a sort of branch of the entertainment industry. It's been sort of 24 hour news and sort of 24 hour government. I mean I think one of the big tasks if we win this election, frankly whoever wins this election - put aside the tools of the short-term politics, of the 24 hour news agenda, and get on, roll up your sleeves and start taking decisions for the good of our country. That's what I think people are crying out for - is a government that says right, we're doing this for the good of our country. We're going to take the right decisions, we're going to try and take people with us, but we're not going to sit in an office with the 24 hour news blaring out, shouting out the headlines. That's what we've had for the last three years certainly. I think we've had it for the last thirteen. It's been incredibly damaging. So you know I want a government that would actually use the machinery of government to get things done in a proper, measured and sensible and effective way.

ANDREW MARR:

Sure. You have actually another debate still to go. You're meeting with the other party leaders in London for the Citizen Organising Foundation thing on Monday.

DAVID CAMERON:

Indeed.

ANDREW MARR:

One of their big things is what they call a "living wage" - a bit higher than the minimum wage for key workers. Boris Johnson has picked up on that for London. Is it something that attracts you?

DAVID CAMERON:

I think it's hugely attractive. I mean all credit to Boris for bringing it in for his staff at City Hall. I think the idea of saying that actually in a city as wealthy as London that there's something really wrong with this huge gap between the lowest paid and the highest paid - and it's something we've brought in at Conservative Central Office. We've actually said …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Can you bring it in through Whitehall or …?

DAVID CAMERON:

I would like to do that. I can't make a pledge today. We need to look at the numbers, work out how it could be done - whether it could be paid for by perhaps looking at changing the rules for civil service bonuses. There are all sorts of things we could do. I think it's a very attractive idea. I think it has a lot of merit. I'm great … I'm really pleased to be going to the Citizen's organisation because in my view they absolutely take the big society idea of actually we're not just here to obey the law and pay our taxes. There are more things we should do to help build a big society and there are great community organisations out there that can help us do it.

ANDREW MARR:

Sure.

DAVID CAMERON:

So I'm looking forward to that on Monday night. A few things to do between now and then though.

ANDREW MARR:

Certainly. When it comes to the big budget decisions and so forth, will each Whitehall department be pretty quickly given instructions that they're going to have to cut and cut fast?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well what any new government is going to have to do is to work out how to effectively get control of the waste and the debt and the spending to try and keep these taxes down …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) And that's started?

DAVID CAMERON:

And that has to start quickly. I do think we need to find a more collective way of doing it. I think in recent years you've just seen … (laughing) You know I mean in recent years the Prime Minister wasn't even shown the budget before it was made.

ANDREW MARR:

Sure.

DAVID CAMERON:

I think more claim for it. I really do believe in team.

ANDREW MARR:

Sure.

DAVID CAMERON:

I mean I've spent a lot of time getting Ken Clarke back into the shadow cabinet - the last chancellor to take us out of recession; having William Hague in and bringing him back. I really believe in team. I think it's very important. I don't want to try and be some sort of crazed chief executive, chief financial officer, chief operating officer. That's not how I work.

ANDREW MARR:

Ken Clarke for Chancellor?

DAVID CAMERON:

Ken Clarke does an exceptionally good job …

ANDREW MARR:

Alright.

DAVID CAMERON:

… and he'll be where he is if we win.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay. We're talking at the moment as if you're going to win an overall majority, and that may very well be what happens, but we're still - according to some of the polls - in hung parliament territory. When Nick Clegg says that, look, what this election has shown at least is that the country is more various, it's not the either/or binary politics of old and that we do need a change of some kind to the voting system to reflect that, that's a very straightforward truth, isn't it?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well I don't agree with him about this. I think we need a change to the electoral system to make it fairer, and that is to have all constituencies being the same size. I think it's completely wrong at the moment that you've got …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Which benefits which party? Starting with a C?

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) Well it benefits … No, I mean it just benefits the voter. Why should you have 110,000 constituents in the Isle of Wight, but sometimes as few as 60,000 in other seats? I just don't think that's fair. But the benefit of our current system is that it does enable the voter to throw out a tired government and put a new one in its place. It's their decision whether to do that, but it enables that. My fear of proportional representation is you just end up with endless hung parliaments and actually it's not the voter choosing the Prime Minister, it is the politicians in a smoke filled room. I don't think that's more democratic or more decisive or better.

ANDREW MARR:

And yet you may have to deal with Mr Clegg. Would you prefer to be … Will your instinct be - if it isn't an overall outcome, if it's a minority - to govern as a minority or to do a coalition deal? In other words, if you win the highest number of seats, will you try and govern as a Conservative government with a Conservative cabinet rather than stitch up a coalition?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well what I've said is look, obviously I'm fighting with everything I've got in the next four days to try and win what I think would be good for Britain, which is a decisive majority government that can take the whole country with it but get things done starting on Friday. That's … Now if we go …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) That's what you want, but …

DAVID CAMERON:

I've said very clearly if there's a hung parliament, which I think there are many disadvantages and I've set those out, but we would behave responsibly. We'd do everything we can to have a good and strong government in the national interest. Beyond that, I mean you're going to try and ask me to …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) "Good and strong" sounds like a coalition.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well you know I'm not going to … I think it's only fair with four days to go to allow politicians to say …

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

DAVID CAMERON:

… I'm going all out to win. Let's talk about the results after the result. We can talk about the issues now.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright. But you could sit round, you could sit round a table with Vince Cable or Nick Clegg or whoever, a cabinet table? You could do that?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well, as I say, I think it's perfectly fair to allow me to try and do everything I can with my party, with my team to try and win that, and we'll deal with the result - whatever it is - after it happens.

ANDREW MARR:

You're a man … We can watch the body language. We can all see you're on a roll, aren't you?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well I feel … You know I think the debates have been a big challenge. They have thrown the election wide open. They have presented big challenges for all the campaigns - perhaps mine especially. But I think we've come through that very strongly, I think winning the argument on the economy, and I think we've got some momentum now to go into these last few days and say if you want a new Prime Minister, a new team, a new government on Friday, then vote Conservative on Thursday and we can make the changes the country needs.

ANDREW MARR:

That was the right message to end on …

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) Thank you.

ANDREW MARR:

… David Cameron, from your point of view at any rate. Thank you very much indeed.

INTERVIEW ENDS




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