Peter Thorneycroft

George Edward Peter Thorneycroft, Baron Thorneycroft, CH, PC (26 July 1909 – 4 June 1994) was a British Conservative Party politician. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1957 and 1958.

The Lord Thorneycroft

Peter Thornycroft
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
13 January 1957 – 6 January 1958
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byHarold Macmillan
Succeeded byDerick Heathcoat-Amory
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
11 February 1975 – 14 September 1981
LeaderMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byWilliam Whitelaw
Succeeded byCecil Parkinson
Secretary of State for Defence
In office
13 July 1962 – 16 October 1964
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded byHarold Watkinson
Succeeded byDenis Healey
Minister of Aviation
In office
27 July 1960 – 13 July 1962
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byDuncan Sandys
Succeeded byJulian Amery
President of the Board of Trade
In office
30 October 1951 – 13 January 1957
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Anthony Eden
Preceded byHartley Shawcross
Succeeded byDavid Eccles
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
4 December 1967 – 4 June 1994
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for Monmouth
In office
30 October 1945 – 31 March 1966
Preceded byLeslie Pym
Succeeded byDonald Anderson
Member of Parliament
for Stafford
In office
9 June 1938 – 5 July 1945
Preceded byWilliam Ormsby-Gore
Succeeded byStephen Swingler
Personal details
Born26 July 1909
Dunston, United Kingdom
Died4 June 1994 (aged 84)
London, United Kingdom
Political partyConservative
Alma materRoyal Military Academy, Woolwich
City Law School

Early life

Born in Dunston, Staffordshire, Thorneycroft was the son of Major George Edward Mervyn Thorneycroft and Dorothy Hope Franklyn. He was the grandson of Sir William Franklyn and nephew of Sir Harold Franklyn.[1] He was educated at Eton and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery as a second lieutenant on 29 August 1929 but resigned his commission on 1 July 1931.[2][3] In 1933, he was called to the bar for the Inner Temple.

Political career

He entered Parliament in the Stafford by-election, 1938, for the borough of Stafford. He was re-commissioned into the Royal Artillery in his previous rank on 30 August 1939.[4] During World War II, he served with the Royal Artillery and the general staff. Along with other members of the Tory Reform Committee, Thorneycroft pressed his party to support the Beveridge Report.

He served in the Conservative caretaker Government 1945 as Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of War Transport. In the 1945 general election, he lost his seat to his Labour opponent, Stephen Swingler, but he returned in the Monmouth by-election, 1945 for Monmouth a few months later.[5]

Throughout the late 1940s Thorneycroft worked assiduously to refurbish the Conservative Party after its disastrous defeat in the 1945 general election. His opposition to the Anglo-American loan in the Commons earned him a reputation as a parliamentary debater, and when the Conservatives returned to power after the general election of 1951, he was appointed President of the Board of Trade. He was instrumental in persuading the government in 1954 to abandon the party's support for protectionism and accept the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.[6]

Chancellorship and resignation

Thorneycroft's support for Harold Macmillan in Macmillan's successful 1957 leadership contest for the premiership led to his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer,[7] one of the most senior positions in the government. He resigned in 1958, along with two junior Treasury Ministers, Enoch Powell and Nigel Birch, because of increased government expenditure. Macmillan, himself a former chancellor, made a famous and much-quoted remark that the resignations were merely "little local difficulties". (In reality, Macmillan was deeply concerned about the possible effects of Thorneycroft's resignation.)

In retrospect, Thorneycroft questioned the wisdom of his resignation, saying that "we probably made our stand too early."

Later political career

Thorneycroft returned to the Cabinet in 1960, when he was appointed Minister of Aviation by Macmillan. In 1962, he was promoted to be Secretary of State for Defence. As Secretary of State for Defence, Thorneycroft played a pivotal role in the Sunda Straits Crisis, first supporting and then opposing the passage of the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious through the Indonesian-claimed Sunda Strait during the height of the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation in August and September 1964.[8]

After the Government was defeated in 1964, Thorneycroft first served as Shadow Secretary of State for Defence under Alec Douglas-Home, before being made Shadow Home Secretary by Edward Heath the next year. Thorneycroft lost his seat at the 1966 general election, and was raised to the peerage as a life peer as Baron Thorneycroft, of Dunston in the County of Stafford on 4 December 1967.[9]

Later life

Thorneycroft was a strong supporter of Margaret Thatcher's monetarist policies, and she made him Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1975. He held the position until 1981.

He was notable as an amateur watercolourist and held exhibitions. Winston Churchill, when told of Thorneycroft's interest, had said, "Every minister must have his vice. Painting shall be yours".[5]

He was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 1980 New Year Honours.[10]


His grandfather was the Victorian Colonel Thomas Thorneycroft, a Wolverhampton industrialist, eccentric, landowner and well-known Conservative; he was asked to stand for election by Benjamin Disraeli. Colonel Thorneycroft owned various houses in Staffordshire and Shropshire including Tettenhall Towers and Tong Castle.

His great-grandfather was George Benjamin Thorneycroft, an ironfounder, JP, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire and first Mayor of Wolverhampton. His grandfather's cousin was John Isaac Thorneycroft who founded Vosper Thorneycroft. A second cousin was Siegfried Sassoon. A third cousin was Willie Whitelaw. Another second cousin was the novelist Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler. His great uncle was Lord Wolverhampton.

After his first marriage, to Sheila Wells Page, and divorce, he married Carla, Contessa Roberti (later known as Lady Thorneycroft, DBE) in 1949. He had a son by his first wife and a daughter by his second wife.

Styles of address

  • 1909–1938: Mr Peter Thorneycroft
  • 1938–1951: Mr Peter Thorneycroft MP
  • 1951–1966: The Rt Hon. Peter Thorneycroft MP
  • 1966–1967: The Rt Hon. Peter Thorneycroft
  • 1967–1980: The Rt Hon. The Lord Thorneycroft PC
  • 1980–1994: The Rt Hon. The Lord Thorneycroft CH PC


  1. ^ Block, Maxine; Rothe, Anna Herthe; Candee, Marjorie Dent (1953). Current Biography Yearbook. H. W. Wilson Co. p. 592. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  2. ^ "No. 33530". The London Gazette. 30 August 1929. p. 5644.
  3. ^ "No. 33731". The London Gazette. 30 June 1931. p. 4246.
  4. ^ "No. 34660". The London Gazette. 29 August 1939. p. 5920.
  5. ^ a b Howarth, Alan (6 June 1994). "Obituary: Lord Thorneycroft". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  6. ^ Robert Shepard, "Theorneycroft, (George Edward) Peter", in The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century British Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 642
  7. ^ "No. 40981". The London Gazette. 22 January 1957. p. 501.
  8. ^ Easter, David (2012). Britain and the Confrontation with Indonesia, 1960–66. I.B.Tauris, p. 100.
  9. ^ "No. 44469". The London Gazette. 5 December 1967. p. 13287.
  10. ^ "No. 48059". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 January 1980. p. 298.

Further reading

  • Craig, F.W.S. (1983) [1969]. British parliamentary election results 1918–1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. ISBN 0-900178-06-X.
  • Dell, Edmund. The Chancellors: A History of the Chancellors of the Exchequer, 1945-90 (HarperCollins, 1997) pp 223–41, covers his term as Chancellor.
  • Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
  • The Times, 6 June 1994 (obit)
  • The Daily Telegraph, 6 June 1994 (obit)

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Ormsby-Gore
Member of Parliament
for Stafford

Succeeded by
Stephen Swingler
Preceded by
Leslie Pym
Member of Parliament
for Monmouth

Succeeded by
Donald Anderson
Political offices
Preceded by
Hartley Shawcross
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
David Eccles
Preceded by
Harold Macmillan
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Derick Heathcoat-Amory
Preceded by
Duncan Sandys
Minister of Aviation
Succeeded by
Julian Amery
Preceded by
Harold Watkinson
Secretary of State for Defence
Succeeded by
Denis Healey
Preceded by
Denis Healey
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
Succeeded by
Enoch Powell
Preceded by
Edward Boyle
Shadow Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Quintin Hogg
Party political offices
Preceded by
Willie Whitelaw
Chair of the Conservative Party
Succeeded by
Cecil Parkinson
1938 Stafford by-election

The Stafford by-election of 1938 was held on 9 June 1938. The by-election was held due to the succession to the peerage of the incumbent Conservative MP, William Ormsby-Gore. It was won by the Conservative candidate Peter Thorneycroft.

1945 Monmouth by-election

The Monmouth by-election, 1945 was a by-election held for the British House of Commons constituency of Monmouth in Wales on 30 October 1945. The seat had become vacant on the death of the sitting Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Leslie Pym, and the by-election was won by the Conservative candidate Peter Thorneycroft.

Carla Thorneycroft, Baroness Thorneycroft

Carla Thorneycroft, Baroness Thorneycroft, DBE (12 February 1914 – 7 March 2007), was the wife of Conservative Party politician and Chancellor of the Exchequer Peter Thorneycroft. Lady Thorneycroft helped establish the Venice in Peril Fund and was a noted philanthropist and patroness of the arts.

Conservative government, 1957–1964

The Conservative government of the United Kingdom that began in 1957 and ended in 1964 consisted of three ministries: the first Macmillan ministry, second Macmillan ministry, and then the Douglas-Home ministry. They were led by Harold Macmillan and Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who were appointed respectively by Queen Elizabeth II.

Denis Healey

Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey, (30 August 1917 – 3 October 2015) was a British Labour Party politician who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970, Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979 and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1980 to 1983.

He was a Member of Parliament for 40 years (from 1952 until his retirement in 1992) and was the last surviving member of the cabinet formed by Harold Wilson after the Labour Party's victory in the 1964 general election. A major figure in the party, he was twice defeated in bids for the party leadership.

To the public at large, Healey became well known for his bushy eyebrows and his creative turns of phrase.

Donald Anderson, Baron Anderson of Swansea

Donald Anderson, Baron Anderson of Swansea, (born 17 June 1939, Swansea) is a British Labour Party politician, who was one of the longest-serving Members of Parliament in recent years, his service totalling 34 years.

Harold Watkinson

Harold Arthur Watkinson, 1st Viscount Watkinson, (25 January 1910, in Walton on Thames – 19 December 1995, in Bosham) was a British businessman and Conservative Party politician. He was Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation between 1955 and 1959 and a cabinet member as Minister of Defence between 1959 and 1962, when he was sacked in the Night of the Long Knives. In 1964 he was ennobled as Viscount Watkinson.

Leslie Pym

Leslie Ruthven Pym (24 May 1884 – 17 July 1945) was a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom.

The son of the Right Reverend Walter Ruthven Pym, Bishop of Bombay, Pym was educated at Bedford School and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Monmouth in Wales at a by-election in 1939. He represented the constituency in the House of Commons until his death during the 1945 general election. Polling took place on 5 July 1945. Pym died 12 days later, but nine days before the declaration of the result. He was declared posthumously elected on 26 July 1945, provoking a by-election in his Monmouth constituency. That contest was won by Peter Thorneycroft.

Leslie Pym died on 17 July 1945, three days before his brother, Revd Canon Thomas Wentworth Pym, and, coincidentally, on the same day as Sir Edward Campbell, the member for Bromley, who was also posthumously elected.

In the war-time coalition government, he was a government whip.

Pym was not a descendant of the 17th century Parliamentarian John Pym. His son Francis (1922–2008) was later a Conservative MP and Cabinet minister.

Lynch Maydon

Lieutenant-Commander Stephen Lynch Conway Maydon (15 December 1913 – 2 March 1971) was a British Navy officer and politician who had a brief career in government.

Maydon's father John, after whom Maydon Wharf in Durban is named, was a member of the Natal Legislative Assembly and he was born there (in Pietermaritzburg). He however moved to Britain at the age of 4 after the death of his father and was brought up in Britain and schooled at Twyford School near Winchester. He showed an early interest in the Royal Navy, enlisting in 1931, and studied at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. During the Second World War Maydon commanded submarines HMS L26, HMS Umbra and HMS Tradewind. Commanding Tradewind, he torpedoed 14 Japanese vessels, none of which were warships. One of these, torpedoed on 18 September 1944, was Jun'yō Maru, on its way from Java to Sumatra, carrying 1,450 mostly Dutch prisoner of war slave laborers and 4,200 Javanese slave laborers. 5,620 of those on board died, making this the biggest single action friendly loss of life in history and the highest death count in history from a single British action. Maydon was married to Joan (née Baker) until his death.

At the 1950 general election, Maydon fought Bristol South, a safe Labour constituency. He was then chosen for the safe Conservative seat of Wells, which he won in the 1951 election. Peter Thorneycroft, then President of the Board of Trade, named him as his Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1952; he served for only a year.

After the 1959 general election, Maydon was Chairman of the Conservative Parliamentary Party Defence Committee for two years. Harold Macmillan brought him into government as Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance from July 1962, where he served alongside Margaret Thatcher. He retained this office under Sir Alec Douglas-Home.

Maydon was a right-winger who supported the use of corporal punishment, arguing that it was an effective sentence as a last resort. He opposed sanctions against Rhodesia and voted against the Race Relations Act 1968 (which made it illegal to refuse housing, employment, or public services to a person on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins) and also opposed House of Lords Reform. In 1968 he declared to the House of Commons that he was '[...] one of the few—I believe perhaps the only—Member of this House who supports and believes in apartheid.' He retired at the 1970 general election, and died less than a year later.

Minister of Defence (United Kingdom)

The post of Minister of Defence was responsible for co-ordination of defence and security from its creation in 1940 until its abolition in 1964. The post was a Cabinet-level post and generally ranked above the three service ministers, some of whom, however, continued to also serve in Cabinet.

Monmouth (UK Parliament constituency)

Monmouth (Welsh: Sir Fynwy) is a county constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (at Westminster). It elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post of election. The constituency was created for the 1918 general election. Since 2005 the MP has been David Davies of the Conservative Party.

The Monmouth Welsh Assembly constituency, created in 1999, has normally the same boundaries as the Westminster constituency.

Nigel Birch, Baron Rhyl

Evelyn Nigel Chetwode Birch, Baron Rhyl (18 November 1906 – 8 March 1981) was a British Conservative politician.

The son of General Sir Noel Birch and his wife Florence Chetwode, Nigel Birch was educated at Eton. He was a partner in Cohen Laming Hoare until May 1939 when he retired to study politics. He served in World War II in the King's Royal Rifle Corps and on General Staff, being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1944. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1945.He was Conservative Member of Parliament for Flintshire from 1945 to 1950 and for West Flintshire from 1950 to 1970. He served in government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Air from 1951 to 1952, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence from 1952 to 1954, Minister of Works from October 1954 to December 1955, Secretary of State for Air from December 1955 to January 1957 and Economic Secretary to the Treasury from 1957 to 1958.

His resignation in 1958, along with that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer Peter Thorneycroft and fellow Treasury Minister Enoch Powell, was described by Harold Macmillan as "little local difficulties". He exacted his revenge when, in the wake of the Profumo scandal, he attacked the Macmillan government and quoted in his memorable speech the devastating words of Robert Browning on William Wordsworth: "Never glad confident morning again".

His speech showed Macmillan as weak and out of touch, and it sealed Birch's reputation of being as deadly as Leo Amery.

In 1950 he married Esmé Glyn, the daughter of the 4th Baron Wolverton.

In 1955, he was appointed a Privy Counsellor, and on 7 July 1970, he was created a life peer as Baron Rhyl, of Holywell in the parish of Swanmore in the County of Southampton.

Secretary of State for Defence

Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Defence (Defence Secretary) is a senior official within Her Majesty's Government and head of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The office is a British Cabinet–level position, and is currently held by Penny Mordaunt since May 2019, following the dismissal of Gavin Williamson by Prime Minister Theresa May.

The post was created in 1964 as successor to the posts of Minister for Coordination of Defence (1936–1940) and Minister of Defence (1940–1964). It replaced the positions of First Lord of the Admiralty, Secretary of State for War, and Secretary of State for Air, as the Admiralty, War Office and Air Ministry were merged into the Ministry of Defence (the Secretary of State for War had already ceased to be a cabinet position in 1946, with the creation of the cabinet-level Minister of Defence).

Shadow Home Secretary

In British politics, the Shadow Home Secretary is the person within the shadow cabinet who 'shadows' the Home Secretary; this effectively means scrutinising government policy on home affairs including policing, national security, the criminal justice system, the prison service, and matters of citizenship. If the opposition party is elected to government, the Shadow Home Secretary often becomes the new Home Secretary though this is not always the case. The office has been held by Labour MP Diane Abbott since 6 October 2016.

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

The Shadow Secretary of State for Defence is a member of the UK Shadow Cabinet responsible for the scrutiny of the Secretary of State for Defence and the department, the Ministry of Defence. The post is currently held by Nia Griffith.

Sunda Straits Crisis

The Sunda Straits Crisis was a two-week confrontation between the United Kingdom and Indonesia over the passage of the Illustrious-class aircraft carrier HMS Victorious through the Sunda Strait, a major waterway separating the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra, occurring between August and September 1964. The incident was part of the larger Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation, an armed conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia (with the military support of Britain) over the formation of the latter as an independent state.

On 27 August 1964, the British aircraft carrier HMS Victorious and her two destroyer escorts sailed through the Sunda Strait, an international waterway claimed by Indonesia, en route to Australia. Upset by the casual warning the British had given of the ships' impending passage through the Strait (a telephone call made two days before, which did not mention the carrier) and wary of the possibility that the British were attempting to provoke a violent response, the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided two days later to prohibit the warships from making the return journey to Singapore, scheduled for the middle of September.

Infuriated by what was perceived as yet another affront to British prestige after the recent landings at Pontian and Labis by Indonesian volunteers in southwestern Malaysia, members of the British Cabinet, particularly Peter Thorneycroft and Louis Mountbatten, favoured sending the carrier back through the Strait in spite of the Indonesian ban. Though British naval commanders in the Far East had grave concerns that the Victorious would be indefensible while in passage, the prevailing opinion was that not to send the ship would result in an immense political defeat on both a domestic and international scale as well as the loss of rights to an important waterway. Tension mounted as the British and Indonesians each refused to bend, and as the carrier's time to sail came, war became increasingly likely.

On 10 September, however, the Indonesians proposed a way out: an alternative route through the Lombok Strait. The British took them up on this offer, to the relief of both parties, and the Victorious made a peaceful return through Indonesian territory. War was averted, and the climax of tensions during the Confrontation had been passed. Never again was the threat of all-out war a realistic possibility, despite some large land battles in northern Borneo the following spring, and the Confrontation wound down by late fall of 1965. It had never escalated into a major conflict, and a peace deal was signed the following year.

Third Churchill ministry

Winston Churchill formed the third Churchill ministry in the United Kingdom after the 1951 general election. He was reappointed as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom by King George VI and oversaw the accession of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 and her coronation.

Venice in Peril Fund

The Venice in Peril Fund is a British registered charity. It raises funds to restore and conserve works of art and architecture in Venice, and to investigate ways to protect them against future risks, particularly rising sea levels. The Fund is also committed to ensuring the sustainability of Venice, acting as a lobby and working to find answers to some of the critical ecological, demographic and socio-economic issues that the city is facing. Its chairman is Jonathan Keates, an author, and was a teacher at the City of London School before retiring in 2013.The Venice in Peril Fund was created after the great floods in Florence and Venice in 1966. The disaster led to dozens of private citizens donating large sums of money and Sir Ashley Clarke, former British Ambassador to Rome and chairman of the British Italian Society at that time, was asked to chair a committee to raise further funds to help rescue the two cities. This committee was constituted as the Art & Archives Rescue Fund (IAARF) in 1967 and Sir Ashley was supported in his fundraising efforts by Carla Thorneycroft (Italian-born wife of Conservative MP Peter Thorneycroft, later Lord Thorneycroft), and Nathalie Brooke, wife of Humphrey Brooke, the Secretary to the Royal Academy.

By the end of July 1967 it was decided that fund-raising activity for Florence should be wound down gradually and that efforts would be redirected to Venice where the serious damage had been to the structure of the city. In 1971 a new statute was drawn up to replace the IAARF with the trust fund Venice in Peril. John Julius, Viscount Norwich, joined as Chairman in 1971.

Anna Somers Cocks who was Chairman from 1999 to 2012 expanded the role of the charity to include research into the environmental and socio-economic threats facing the city.

The many successful fundraising efforts were helped enormously when, in 1977, Peter Boizot, the founder of Pizza Express, invented the Pizza Veneziana. A percentage of the sale price of every Pizza Veneziana sold is donated to Venice in Peril and by 2014 this initiative had raised £2m. Venice in Peril is extremely proud of this partnership.

By 2010, the Fund had completed 46 conservation and restoration projects in Venice, including the Gothic Porta della Carta of the Doge's Palace. Three-quarters of its funds have been spent on religious buildings, including the late Gothic church of the Madonna dell'Orto in Cannaregio, the ancient Veneto-Byzantine aisled church of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli, and the 16th century Cappella Emiliani on the cemetery island of San Michele. A new project is the restoration of a hydraulic crane inside the Arsenale, built by Armstrong Mitchell in Newcastle in 1883, one of only two remaining in the world.

The water level in Venice has risen 23 cm since 1900 due to a combination of subsidence and the level of the Venice lagoon rising. Venice in Peril organised a symposium in London in 1998 to discuss the risk to low-lying cities, including Venice, as a result of rising sea levels; and funded the creation of a research fellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge from 2001 to 2004 to investigate ways to protect Venice from rising sea levels. A conference was held in Cambridge in 2003, and a book The Science of Saving Venice was published in 2004.

In 2010, Venice in Peril initiated a campaign in which it solicited the support of the leading museum directors of the world against the vast advertisements on the Doge's Palace and down the Grand Canal.

A photographic tribute was produced by international artists in 2011 to support the fund.

Shadow Cabinet positions
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
4 August 1965 – 13 April 1966
LeaderEdward Heath
ShadowingFrank Soskice
Roy Jenkins
Preceded byEdward Boyle
Succeeded byQuintin Hogg
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
16 October 1964 – 4 August 1965
LeaderAlec Douglas-Home
ShadowingDenis Healey
Preceded byDenis Healey
Succeeded byEnoch Powell
House of Stuart
House of Hanover
House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
House of Windsor
Minister for Co-ordination of Defence
Ministers for Defence
Secretaries of State for Defence

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