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Thank you, Mr Speaker. I think that we can do without the mouth from Louth at the moment.
Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I asked you a question about Standing Order No. 8, and you kindly gave a ruling on it. This is the first opportunity that I have had of reading your ruling in Hansard. You say that under Standing Order No. 8 you have the power to allow questions after 3.30 pin, that that does not relate solely to private notice questions but to any questions, and that you
do not propose to put a new interpretation on the rule."—[Official Report, 9 December 1980; Vol. 995, c. 1188.]
May I take it that that does not mean that only Government-supported questions will be allowed? The previous week, Mr. Speaker, you allowed such a question relating to the arming of women Service personnel to be taken after 3.30 pm. I am concerned that the rights of the Opposition should be maintained on this and other matters, because many of us feel that the Prime Minister has trampled on the rights of Parliament by not making a statement. It is important that your powers should in no way be trampled upon or in any way be seen to be simply defending the Government's position.
I think that the hon. Gentleman entered the House in 1974. In the past few years we have not had what was until then a common experience of Ministers answering questions, with permission, at the end of Question Time. Alternatively, if there was a question on the Order Paper that they particularly wished to answer, and if it was one in which the House had an interest, they sought leave to answer it after Question Time. That is a long-established custom in this House, which has continued for well over 100 years.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to raise this with you now because I know that the House is anxious to proceed. I honestly believe that if the House proceeds to the next business without resolving the problems relating to the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Eire—
Order. We cannot have points of order on that matter now. I have dealt with an application under Standing Order No. 9 and have taken other points of order. I am taking no further points of order on the issue of the Dublin talks.