Ros Scott: Lib Dem internal code of conduct on expenses

The membership have just received an email from the President summarising the decisions made at the Federal Executive meeting on Monday.

1. There will be a code of conduct binding on Liberal Democrat parliamentarians and candidates.
2. All Liberal Democrat MPs will support the proposals from Sir Christopher Kelly’s review of MPs’ expenses. There will be no picking and choosing of which of his recommendations to support.
3. Our leader and Chief Whip in the House of Lords will undertake a thorough review of expenses and allowances in the House of Lords.
4. We will end the self-regulation of Parliament.
5. Any Liberal Democrat MP found to have committed serious wrongdoing will have the whip withdrawn and be referred by the party to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

My immediate reaction: the code of conduct is at least some good news – though it comes far too late to be anything but making up an insufficiency, as the party must be well aware. It’s certainly good news that the party has declared a willingness to withdraw the whip where necessary, though I foresee much grim quibbling over the precise definition of “serious wrongdoing” in this instance.

Items 2 and 4 just restate existing public commitments. Items 3 and 5 basically suggest party investigations into the expenses of the Lords and Commons. I’m not entirely clear on why they’ve been separated in the list. The distinction may be that in the Commons it will be a matter of checking allegations made by the Telegraph, whereas in the Lords the party will be actively seeking out information. And no suspensions, it appears, pending the investigation.

UPDATE: The Fed Exec statement in full follows.

Federal Executive acknowledge the strength of feeling amongst the public and our members and activists concerning the way in which Members of Parliament have been reimbursed for expenses and the revelations about the misconduct of particular Parliamentarians.

In expressing our disappointment in the behaviour and judgment of some Parliamentarians we reflected on how this situation is bad for democracy as a whole and unfairly damages the reputations of the many elected representatives that perform their public duties with integrity.

Federal Executive welcomed the strong leadership shown on this issue by our Leader, Nick Clegg. His commitment to support Christopher Kelly’s Review of MPs’ Expenses, his stand on the sale of second homes and his calling for the resignation of the Speaker of the House of Commons reflects our support for a thorough overhaul of the discredited present expenses system.

Federal Executive was briefed on the actions being taken by the Chief Whips in both Houses to review individually the expenses and allowances of all MPs and Peers. We noted the range of sanctions available for those who are found to have fallen short of the standards expected. Federal Executive was reassured that any Liberal Democrat MP found to be guilty of serious wrongdoing would have the whip withdrawn leading to deselection and would be referred by the party to the Commissioner for Standards. The Chief Whips will report on the actions they have taken at the next Federal Executive.

Federal Executive believes the principles of accountability, honesty, transparency and openness should underpin the new approach to expenses. We support an end to the self-regulation of parliament. Instead decisions currently taken by parliament which affect expenses, salaries, pensions and disciplinary procedures should be taken by an independent body, guaranteed by statute. We would also expect the new approach to build on the standards now adopted in local government towards the reimbursement of expenses incurred for performing public duties. We ask the Leader to reflect these views in our party’s response to the public consultation on Christopher Kelly’s Review of MPs’ Expenses.

By mid-June the Chief Whips in both Houses, working with other relevant parts of the party will produce a Code of Conduct for Liberal Democrat parliamentarians. The party’s Audit and Compliance Board will outline principles which will inform this Code of Conduct. Those drafting the Code were asked to consider issues covering, but not be limited to, guidance in addressing the following areas:

  1. Auditing of accounts
  2. Complete transparency of expenditure of public money
  3. Real time disclosure of receipt claims
  4. An expenses regime which accurately reflects the duties undertaken by Parliamentarians
  5. Sanctions for those found to be in breach of the Code

All Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidates will agree to abide by the Code of Conduct as a condition of selection. Other state parties and the European parliamentary party will be asked to produce a Code of Conduct which will similarly apply to all candidates.

The Federal Executive welcome the Leader’s commitment that all Liberal Democrat MPs will support Christopher Kelly’s proposals. These will be entirely independent proposals. There will be no picking and choosing of which of his recommendations to support.

Following publication, Lords McNally and Shutt will undertake a through review of expenses and allowances in the House of Lords which will draw on the work to be undertaken by the independent external assessor who is to be appointed immediately.

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36 Comments

  • I hope this also extends to MPs who make silly juvenile statements about their personal lives that can bring the party into disrepute. We have lost votes through their desparate antics to gain street cred sometimes…

  • So the only response to the allegations about Rennard, published nearly two weeks ago, is a lot of vague waffle about reviews and codes of conduct, to be carried out on some undisclosed timescale.

    And the Federal Executive has declared that guilty MPs will have the whip withdrawn, but has said nothing about disciplinary action against members of the House of Lords.

    So was this the deal? “I’ll go quietly provided we all pretend it’s for personal reasons, and provided I’m not disciplined over my expenses” – let alone giving the money back?

  • Fails to deal with endemic corruption at top of Lib Dem funding

    Fails to deal with corruption of Lib Dem peers who are selling their services as professional lobbyists

    Fails to fire those responsible for taking stolen money

    Fails to commit to repaying stolen £2.4 million pounds to the known victims

    Fails to get rid of Lib Dem peers who bought their peerages

    Fails to get rid of Lib Dem peers who stole peerages from those duly elected by the party

    Fails to ban political lobbyists from holding positions of authority in the party

    hmmmm business as usual then 8((((

  • Alix Mortimer 22nd May '09 - 12:29pm

    D McCarthy, I think the meeting was focussed on expenses? Any and all of those might be legitimate criticisms to make, but they’re a little misplaced here, I think.

    Anon1, to be fair, it does say an external assessor is to be appointed immediately for the Lords. if they are truly external and independent then they should be allowed to make their own judgement about a timescale.

    However, the internal reviews currently being carried out by the whips in both Houses does need at least an indicative timescale, I think.

    Reading more closely, it does look as if there is a stronger line being taken on Lords’ expenses than Commons, what with the appointment of an independent assessor. Which is in proportion with where our main concern lies.

  • Alix Mortimer 22nd May '09 - 12:32pm

    @Niklas, when the independent assessor has reported. See my note on timescale, above.

  • Lots of verbage,waffle and fog but NOTHING repeat NOTHING about Lord Rennard’s claim for £ 41,678.

    Does the Fed Exec:
    Think peole are stupid?
    Will simple forget about Rennrad’s claim?
    Trying to seep it under the carpet?

    There is a major issue to be sorted that was in the national press and they say NOTHING abour what is the purpose of this subserviant,feeble Fed Exec??????

  • Alix Mortimer 22nd May '09 - 12:47pm

    “Think peole are stupid?”

    I wonder what would make them think that?

    Hold on, let me extract it for you:

    “a through review of expenses and allowances in the House of Lords which will draw on the work to be undertaken by the independent external assessor

  • Alix Mortimer 22nd May '09 - 12:55pm

    Hm, do you know what, I apologise for that, john zims, that was unnecessarily waspish of me.

    But I do think we need to at least read this statement properly, guys. There’s no point yelling our heads off without actually taking in what it says.

    To put it another way, john z, if the Fed Exec had come back and said “We have investigated Lord Rennard’s expenses at the meeting and found that he is innocent of wrongdoing,” would you have been satisfied?

    I wouldn’t. An independent investigation is a much better idea. My only caveat is that he hasn’t been suspended in the meantime.

  • Am I missing something? Does the statement actually say what this independent person is being appointed to assess?

  • Alix – I think the point is that no-one from the top of the party has made a statement concerning Rennard.

    Something simple along the lines of:

    “Regarding the specific allegations concerning Lord Rennard, there will be a through review of expenses and allowances in the House of Lords which will draw on the work to be undertaken by the independent external assessor. If after this review has reported back [timescale] Lord Rennard has found to have acted improperly, then he will have to pay the moeny back / face disciplinary action etc [delete as applicable].”

  • Alix Mortimer 22nd May '09 - 1:00pm

    Yup, that would have worked much better.

  • David Allen 22nd May '09 - 1:12pm

    Alix, yes it’s progress, but, we can all hear the sound of kicking and screaming, can’t we? And there is nothing that annoys the public more than seeing their politicians unwillingly doing too little too late.

    Cameron didn’t point out that wisteria pulls houses to bits and that clearing it might perhaps be viewed as a necessary cost. He just repaid the money. Yes, he’s a cynical swine, and he knows it was a good investment in his image.

    Why do the Tories and Labour bang on at such length about those two corrupt UKIP MEPs? Because UKIP are an imminent threat in the Euros and must be countered.

    When will the Tories and Labour start making the same sort of fuss about Rennard? When any of our campaigning for political reform looks as if it might actually be going somewhere, and the threat needs to be countered, that’s when.

  • I don’t agree much with David Allen, but on this point he’s right.

    I’ve emailed my point back to Ros Scott (much good may it do).

    We have to act on this or our opponents will have a field day, and rightly so. We can’t let any sentimentallity about an individual stand in the way of principle.

  • Alix

    You are correct of course about this relation to just expenses, but in the light of the current meltdown in trust of UK politics, would it not be appropriate for the FE to address the wider issues of probity in our political decision making?

    If they do not take the opportunity to clean out all the corruption at the top of the party, a golden opportunity will be lost.

    Remember, no matter how awful the expenses scandal is, it does not directly affect the actual decision making process, unlike the selling of political services by Lib Dem peers, the buying of Lib Dem Peerages and the wholesale integration of professional political lobbying with our political elites in all parties.

    If the FE set out a charter for clean politics , it would have been genuinely doing something positive.

    Ros Scotts statement was a disgrace in its failure to mention the serious charges against Rennard.

    But then as she did not not propose firing Rennard over the £2.4 million stolen donation and supported the abolition of elections for Lib Dem nominees to the Lords, I am not surprised.

    Rennard devoted himself to the party but I have long disliked many aspects of his record eg the often disgraceful liberties with the truth in election literature and his penchant for removing all the policy/politics from our campaigning.

    He should not have been made a peer, whilst Head of Campaigns. For a small cash strapped party to add a peerage to his workload was a betrayal of HQ and of the party in the lords, neither of which he could serve fully to the extent required.

    He should not have been made Chief Executive, as was demonstrated by the stolen funding disaster.

    Thanks for your nice polite tone though! 8)

  • D McCarthy wrote:

    “Remember, no matter how awful the expenses scandal is, it does not directly affect the actual decision making process, unlike the selling of political services by Lib Dem peers, the buying of Lib Dem Peerages and the wholesale integration of professional political lobbying with our political elites in all parties.”

    The birds are singing and Mr MCarthy is beginning to wake.

    Are you the guy from Southwark who advises on energy saving measures?

  • Alix Mortimer 22nd May '09 - 1:41pm

    “Alix, yes it’s progress, but, we can all hear the sound of kicking and screaming, can’t we?”

    Oh god, yes. And the best thing to do about that now is to carry on lobbying and carry on watching. I think a good dose of grassroots rage against our wrongdoers, and against the system that has been very slow in acting, was exactly what was needed in the last couple of weeks. It was new information to the party machine. And it sure made me feel better.

    But from this point in, there’s only a limited utility in our continuing to rage. It’s no longer new information that Everyone On Lib Dem Voice is Furious. Tabman, I’d be willing to bet that your private email actually does a hell of a lot more good than us all sounding off on a thread again. I sent the FE a private email before the meeting too, and suggested others do the same, and I think from the feedback I had that was more effective than any blogging (I know, it was a shock to me too).

    I think you (DA) sum it up well as regards the possibility of a ghastly collision of the Rennard and reform stories, and I’m going to carry on doing whatever I can do to to stop the one and further the other, which so far as I can see is what we should all do if we care about it. There is a certain amount of modest encouragement to be taken from this announcement and I don’t think we ought to lose our nerve.

  • David Allen – the reason Labour & Tories keep banging on about the UKIP MEPs is because UKIP are swanning around pretending to be completely untouched by all of this when the two MEPs concerned have actually conducted themselves in a much worse fashion.

    Do think we need some sort of statement about Rennard from the top though – at least confirming there’s an investigation going on.

  • Martin Kinsella 22nd May '09 - 6:01pm

    So the anonymous Ros Scott who I only ever heard from when shilling for a vote from me has decided to shut a stable door well after the horse has bolted.

    Quality.

  • Donnachadh McCarthy is absolutely right: we should be tackling all the potential abuses, not just the ones in the public eye at the moment. Anyone who has been active in the party for more than five minutes knows that he spent years trying to get the party establishment to deal with the problem of lobbyist Lords and was driven out of the party for his pains. There will never be a better time to address all the problems of this nature: I’m sorry to say that a few resignations might even improve our credibility with the public.

  • “workload was a betrayal”

    Assuming you are the same D McCarthy as announced his resignation (I’ve assumed delibeately as you wrote a column in the Indy about it) from the party on the same day as the Cheadle by-election you certainly understand that word.

  • What about addressing the causes of Donnachadh’s resignation? Are some of our peers engaged in activities which could be potentially embarrassing to the party? Why have conference resolutions on the issue been repeatedly ignored by the party establishment? There will never be a better time to re-visit the issue and rectify the situation.

  • Tony Hill is correct, I did spend an enormous amount of effort trying to stop corrupt practices in party funding, to stop the selling of peerages and to stop our Peers corruptly selling services as political lobbyists.

    Against huge odds, we got these proposals through conference. But again and again the fedreal officers refused and STILL refuse to implement these decisions.

    Instead in the year after we helped ensure the party’s attendance at the Anti-war march ( despite Charles Kennedy doing EVERYTHING in his power to block me), I was the subject of repeated motions of personal censure from Kennedy, in addition to being repeatedly threatened with legal action as Deputy Chair of the FE, simply for trying to internally clean up our political funding and to stop corrupt practices in the Lords.

    So don’t you DARE accuse me of betrayal.
    The betrayal was NOT done by me!

    The real betrayal was done by those who refused to implement the democratic decisions of the party that mandated an end to corrupt and undemocratic practices.

    The real betrayal was by those in the leadership went for my throat when I tried to clean up party funding and left those who were actually breaking the party’s rules in post.

    The real betrayal was to allow our peers to continue to sell their services to corrupt tax havens and arms manufacturers.

    The real betrayal was to allow those who took millions of pounds of stolen money to continue to stay in office.

    The real betrayal of the party is to allow political lobbyists to sit on party committees and to lobby party committees behind the backs of policy committees.

    And look where that real betrayal has led you to?

    Senior officers of the party taking millions of pounds of stolen money in funding.

    The Chief Executive taking £40,000 of tax payers money for a home outside London.

    The party treasurer in the pay of American Arms Manufacturers.

    The top of the party is riddled with lobbying and tax haven corruption.

    Dont attack me for having tried and failed to prevent this disaster.

    Rather ask why the party’s democratic structures are so weak , that decision after decision of conference to clean up the party were ignored?

    I do not take any satisfaction in seeing the disaster that is now unfolding in the party. It saddens me terribly.

    Goodness knows the country desperately needed a clean liberal party in this its democratic hour of need.

    Everything that I warned would happen if we did not clean up our act, has and is coming to pass. How sad. How terribly sad.

    But we cannot just blame the leadership, we have to also blame the membership and conference which again and again allowed its democratic will to be over-riden rough shod by the entrenched elites in the party.

    You all have a responsibility for the rottenness that continues to fester.

    The only bright point is maybe , just maybe the intense anger among the public might result in a deep cleansing of all our parties.

    The danger of course for us as liberals is that they might instead say a plague on all our houses and instead go to the fascists.

    If they do, those of you who failed to stand up for the democratic decisions of the party being implemented also share the blame.

  • “So don’t you DARE accuse me of betrayal.
    The betrayal was NOT done by me!”

    Really? What was this – published two days before the Cheadle by-election (apologies my recollection was it was on polling day) then?
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/donnachadh-mccarthy-the-lamentable-leadership-of-charles-kennedy-498479.html

    Certainly many, many people within the party who had been among your supporters felt that way.

  • Typical of the small mindedness that has got the party into this mess.

    The timing of the article had NOTHING to do with Cheadle – as a someon who was no longer a member of any political party I did not even know it was happening that day and did not know what day my article was going to be published – so more petty false accusations.

    However, i note like Tony that you fail to address the substance. I stand by everything in that article. If telling the truth finally in public, after exhausting every legitimate democratic avenue and having endured years of legal bullying and spurious motions of censure is betrayal then you probably would vote against a whistle blowers charter.

    Your response reflects exactly why our democracy is in mortal danger. This puerile tribal loyalty that attacks the whistle blowers but allows those who are corrupt to remain in post.

    Rather than attack those who really betrayed the party, you continue to attack those who tried to clean it up.

    That is why the party is in the mess it is in and you have to take your responsibility for it.

    You just dont get it do you?

  • Martin Land 23rd May '09 - 8:00am

    Donnachadh is a little over the top as usual. The party is hardly a sink of iniquity or a mire of corruption, but there is a need for more clarity and for stronger rules. Nick has made a very good start on this; however, as I have already argued this will only appear to be good enough when it is seen to be coming from the membership upwards and not from the centre down. I’m therefore putting Nick’s new rules into the form of a motion which my constituency will be proposing to conference.

    Any additional, sane, points that might be worth adding to such a motion would be welcome.

  • List of Systemic Corruption in the Party:

    Martin I take heart from your comment that it was only a little over the top. 8)

    How many of the following accusations are incorrect?

    1/ The chief executive took £40,000 to fund home outside London when clearly main residence was in London

    2/ The party is in receipt of £2.4 million of stolen money and refusing to pay back to the known victims.

    3/ The party treasurer is selling his political services to American Arms Manufacturers.

    4/ Those Lib Dem peers who bought their peerages are still in post.

    5/ Those Lib Dem peers who accepted the peerages stolen from those who were duly elected by the party are still in post.

    6/ Senior Lib Dem Peers who sold their services to corrupt tax havens are still in post.

    7/ A number of Lib Dem Peers who have for years used off shore tax havens are still in post.

    8/ There is no register of meetings between Lib Dem Parlimentarians and professional political lobbyists.

    9/ The Lib Dem parliamentary party supported the firing of Elizabeth Filkin, the effective Commissioner on Parliamentary Standards. An act which probably ensured the current debacle is as bad as it is.

    10/ The FE refused to implement the party’s regulations on political lobbying.

    11/ The FE supported unelected appointment of Deputy Party treasurers to continue tradition of dining rich donors rather than bottom up and tithing approach to honest funding of the party.

    12/ The system of rich donors paying for time with MPs / Leadership is still in place ie at fund raising dinners etc.

    14/ The FE supported advice from a Lib Dem Peer that it was a peers human right to sell their services as political lobbyists!!!!!!!!

    15/ The policy committee when I was a member of the party, allowed former Lib Dem MEP who was a paid political lobbyist to lobby it on GM issues, behind the back of the duly established committee to consider policy on this area. How much more of this goes on without our knowing it?

    16/ Political lobbyists are allowed on all the parties main committees. They repeatedly used this situation to vote against the rules endorsed by conference.

    17/ The former leader paid nearly £2,000 of tax payers money to a daughter of a friend for “designing” his London flat.

    18/ The party raided its pension fund to fund a general election when I was a member.

    19/ Those who stitched up the top of the european lists were never held to account.

    20/ Those who lied about the legal advice to the FE on the legality of the european lists were never held to account.

    21/ Political lobbyists are allowed to speak/vote at conference debates on the issues that they are paid to lobby on.

    22/ Political lobbyists who are members of the party have used meetings to promote their agendas eg lobbyist for motor cycling industry using conference fringe meeting to urge Ken Livingstone to allow motorists into bus lanes, thus endangering children cycling in those lanes.

    23/ Those who funded Kennedy’s leadership campaign KNEW about his tragic drink problem from the beginning.

    Yes Martin, the party is full of many honest and decent liberals, devoting their lives and careers to the cause, but again and again this is damaged by the corruption endemic in the old boys “gentlemens” club who still hold so much sway at the top of the party.

    But the wider party also cannot evade its responsibility in failing to support those who tried to clean it up.

    Maybe in future it might decide to look at the issues rather than constantly threatening legal action against its whistle blowers.

  • “as a someone who was no longer a member of any political party”

    Hang on. In that article you wrote:

    “Today, I am announcing my resignation from the party.” You can’t resign from something you are no longer a member of.

    So either your statement above is wrong, or you were being decitful in your article to give it greater impact. Which is it?

  • Thanks Hywel and Mark – interesting miniscule pedantic point – I am not sure whether someone who writes an article why they have quit a party are still members but frankly who cares?

    But both of your comments are very useful examples of the typical responses of our political culture and why the party is in the dreadful mess that it is in.

    Pick on a tiny irrelevant point, in the hope the substantive debate on the party’s corruption is diverted.

    Why not as Tony Hill suggests the list of accusations of corrupt practices that need addressing?

    Come on guys if you have any guts or decency, address the substantive points and stop the usual drivel of trying to discredit the messenger rather than face up to the uncomfortable facts.

  • Maybe this debate has moved on – I haven’t been around today – but the article was about the party’s terribly belated response to the expenses scandal. We have lost huge potential credibility with the electorate by not having all these, frankly rather elementary, procedures in place years ago which would have enabled us to present ourselves as whiter than white instead of not quite as bad as the others. Donnachadh tried to broaden the debate into other areas where we are vulnerable because this is the best possible time to stop pussy-footing around and deal with all the issues that have or could trip us up. Every time someone raises the £2.4 million the loyalists trot out the justification that the Electoral Commission said we did nothing wrong: it’s the same argument that Blears, McKay, Gibson, Viggers etc. etc. are using. It was stolen money; our peers who are paid lobbyists are corrupting the democratic process; we have passed resolutions about all this – why don’t people get it? We need to sort the problems out NOW.

  • Thanks Mark.

    Having posted 23 clear accusations of the endemic corruption of decision making in the Liberal Democrats, the only issue you and Hywel challenged was whether whilst writing an article for the Indpendent, I was technically a member of the party before, during or after publication. 8))

    I therefore take it that both you and Hywel agree with the 23 listed accusations?

    As regards the issue of the Cheadle by-election, if I had been vindictive in my intent I would have published the week before so the quotes could have been used in the opposition’s election leaflets. But that was not my intention, rather it was as it is now, my intention to do what I could to clean up the party. If action had been taken then as outlined in the article, the party would not be in such a disastrous pickle as it is now. What happens e.g. should the Electoral Commission rule against you on the stolen £2.4 million as it clearly should?

    I am sorry I seemed to have bored you with tackling details at FE, which accusation I accept. I did deal with a lot of details, it is a habit of mine but I like to think I also dealt with serious issues no one else had the balls to do.

    However, to imply my body of work at FE was only about tiny details I think inaccurate.

    But I will not bore you with the minutiae of my work at FE on Iraq, Joint Cabinet Committee, Elections of Peers, Elections to Party Committees, Freedom of information for party members on FE business, instituting the first ever standing orders for FE elections, declaring party donations before any other major party and failures opposing appointment of Rennard as CE, opposing Rennards peerage, pushing for European issues to be included in our European campaigning, pushing for the environment in our general election campaiging …

  • “Having posted 23 clear accusations of the endemic corruption of decision making in the Liberal Democrats, the only issue you and Hywel challenged was whether whilst writing an article for the Indpendent, I was technically a member of the party”

    For whatever reason you bear the party a great deal of malice (viz the Independent article) so I don’t really regard you as an objective commentator.

    If you weren’t being accurate, or your recollection isn’t 100% about the article – where there is openly available evidence, then it’s fair to wonder whether you are accurate in your other claims.

    So no to answer your question.

  • Your anger over the timing of the article is understandable.

    All I can say is that it was not intentional but I accept there is no way I can make you believe that.

    Its intention was to try and achieve what the democratic structures of the party had failed and STILL continue to fail to do – and so tragically damaging liberalism at a time when the country is in so need of it.

    I also accept that having gone through what I did with the party that I am not likely to be totally objective. Who would be??!!

    However the current debacles and the conviction of Brown for theft has raised many of the issues that I was trying to sort out when deputy chair of FE and which are still poisoning the party, possibly seriously if the electoral commission rightly finds against the party in its current investigation.

    I had Kennedy table motion after motion of personal censure and repeated threats of legal action for trying to get the ban on political lobbying democratically passed by conference implemented in the months following the Peace March and to clean up party funding, whilst I was serving as Deputy Chair and organising the numerous Lib Dem events against the war.

    And yet many of those who have actually dragged the party through the mud are still in post and what have you done about it?

    Yours and Marks blind tribal political loyalty and failure to see the mote in your own political party’s eye is typical of what is happening in all the political parties and is a major contributory factor to the current crisis in our democracy.

    If you only had the courage to address the 23 allegations listed (almost none of which depend on my evidence but clear hard facts) then you would see within the list is the kernel of a new way of doing politics in a truly liberal way, rather than the current corrupt way.

    In every cloud there is a silver lining… 8)))

    I was threatened with legal action three

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