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A FREE HAND.

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A FREE HAND. During the present crisis it is above all things necessary for everyone to give un- divided and whole-hearted support to those who are responsible for the conduct of the war. While honest criticism and practical suggestions should not be withheld, it is as foolish as it is unpatriotic to seek to embar- rass the new Government by dwelling too much upon the difficulties of their task, or by sowing among the ignorant and ill-in- formed the seeds of distrust and despondency. The privilege of asking questions in Parlia- ment was greatly abused during last Session. It was stated by Mr Asquith in the House of Commons, on July 27th, that since the commencement of the Session in November last up to July 26th no fewer than 2,290 questions mainly relating to the war had been asked by Members of the House. While, no doubt, many of these questions were quite properly put, with the object of eliciting information to which the public were justly entitled, others, said the Prime Minis- ter, were of a trivial and sometimes even of a petty character," while others again "could not have been answered without mischievous results to the interests of the country and the successful prosecution of the war." Whatever may be said against the prolonged adjournment of the House, it has at least this advantage, that no such questions can be put until its re-assembling on September 14th. A DIFFICULT TASK. If we have confidence in the capacity of the Coalition Government to deal with the present situation it follows that we must give them a free and unfettered hand. They represent, as probably no Ministry ever be- fore represented, the will and the fixed resolution of the entire nation. They exist as a Government for one object, and one alone, namely, to carry the war to a success- ful issue. In order to succeed they must necessarily be silent on many points of their plan of campaign. They cannot take the nation into their confidence, without giving valuable information to our enemies. The events of the war may at any time call for momentous decisions, regarding which it would obviously be both undesirable and impossible to consult Parliament. Whether we like it or not, we must trust those who are at the helm of affairs. They alone are in possession of all the facts, and know the right course to steer. There is really no option in the matter, unless it be the contemptible one of attacking the Government upon imperfect information, and rendering their difficult task more difficult still. THE OLD ORDER CHANGING. While giving the Government a free hand in conducting the operations of the war, we would claim similar freedom for all parties in dealing with great questions which must soon come up for settlement. The fact must be realised that great changes social, political, and economic—must follow the war. Things can never revert to their previous positions; movements cannot be re-started on their old grooves. The former battle- cries of party are even now obsolete. The war has completely changed the outlook of the public on questions upon which they have hitherto been sharply divided. The old lines of party cleavage have almost dis- appeared. Old theories have faded away in the lace of new facts, and even the most self-satisfied doctrinaires have been obliged to re-cast their opinions. Under such cir- cumstances it would be both unfair and absurd to expect from any man, and especi- ally from Members of Parliament, strict adhesion to doctrines held before the war, and to pledges given under conditions which no longer prevail. They must be given a free hand to act as seems best in the interests of the country at this turning point of its history. TRADING AFTER THE WAR. In particular, it is clear that a great change has taken place in public opinion with regard to fiscal policy. Staunch Free Traders are now clamouring for import duties to be im- posed, and Mr. Asquith has not said nay to the demand. It is inconceivable that, after the war, the goods of our enemies shall continue to be admitted into our markets free of tax or toll, and it is equally impossible to believe that we shall not inaugurate a scheme of mutually preferential trading with our Dominions and our Allies. The country has made up its mind that British industries shall no longer be handicapped by the dump- ing of Germany's surplus productions in British markets, and also that preferential trade agreements shall be entered into with those countries whose friendship with our own has been cemented with blood and treasure. Moreover, it is imperative that our revenue should be increased in order to meet the heavy daily expense of the war, and no Chancellor of the Exchequer can afford to neglect so obvious a source of income as import duties. We may expect, therefore, that, in his next Budget, Mr McKenna will make a beginning with the reform of our present tariff. We trust that he will so in such a manner as not only to produce the necessary revenue, but also to give stability to British trade and security to British in- dustries. In this task, if he puts behind him all the prejudicies of the past, he may be sure that the nation. will gladly give him a free hand.

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