Reports from Committees of the House of Commons , Vol 9, Provisions Poor, 1774-1801, 7th Report,24 June 1801
Appendix 1", N° 10.
Examination of Mr. William Reynolds,
Corn Dealer on his own account, and not on commiffion; deals in all forts of Grain, except Wheat
I certainly confider it a fair market for every one to buy and fell, and may generally be done on pretty equal terms. There are fome few inftancies where it cannot, that is, where the Corn is the property of Jobbers, and continues in their hands for fale, or in the hands of Factors employed by them. No perfons are equal to buy with advantage, but thofe who know well the Corn Market.
What do you mean by Jobbers, and how the Com being in their hands tends to deprive the public of the fair advantage of buying on equal terms?
I confider Jobbers perfons who attend that Market for the exprefs purpofe of buying Grain to re-fell on the fame market day, or within a day or two afterwards.
Are thofe purchafes by the Jobbers made without the delivery of the article to them?
They ufed to be made frequently without the delivery, but it is not now fo frequent. The late dial, King v. Rujby, has made them more cautious how they have actod; before that trial, it was the general practice of the Jobbers. I confider by delivering, the delivery of the article itfelf from on board fhip.
In what way do you confider that this practice of the Jobbers, to buy and fell again, is detrimental to the public? ------ Becaufe they have a greater facility than people have in the fair trade (I mean thofe who buy for confumption or manufacture) they can advance the market, and take advantage of momentary changes of the market, which they themfelves can occafion. We find by experience, that even a confiderable fingle purchafe, at an advanced price, has an immediate tendency to raife the market; the Market being fo frnall a place, the advance is known immediately, confequently the markets of all England, which look to the London market, are enhanced thereby. In the prefent time of deamefs, are not the prices of the market more influenced by the tales of foreign Corn, than by that of our own growth?------ I confider the prices are more governed by the fale of our own growth than by any importation we have: the prices follow very much that of the finer famples ; in refpect of Wheat, I confider that to be one of the principal caufes of the high price; there being fo few fine famples, the Millers are eager to purchafe them at any price.
Are there any collufive bargains for the purpofe of enhancing the price?------ I know of none; the bargains are real, but are fometimes made for the purpofe of enhancing the price, and which has the effect: the prices of all forts of Grain immediately follow the prices of Wheat. Can you fpeak of any other abufes in the Com Market, from your knowledge and obfervation ?------ -I am not aware of any other at this moment. If I may exprefs my opinion of the prefent high prices of Grain, I fhould attribute it in my own mind to the Act in 1797, for setting the Affize of Bread in London and its vicinity, becaufe it has opened fuch a facility to the Millers in advancing the price of their Flour, that they never knew before that period. Before that Act, the Lord Mayor and Aldermen. had a power of keeping down the Affize, notwithftanding the returns of the prices of Wheat and Flour; and which in fact did tend to keep down the price. This Act has opened a door to a clafs of fpeculators in the market never known before; I mean the opulent Bakers. They being large holders of Flour, came to market prepared to buy Flour at an advanced price; being certain that the price of Bread muft advance with the price of Flour; confequently they take advantage of their ftock on hand, fo as they muft in the end be gainers. Before the Act, the Court having the power of keeping down the price of Bread not withftanding the price of Flour, Bakers did not dare to buy a lack of Flour in a rifing market, which it is now their intereft to do : for the fame reafon the Millers do not care what price they give for their Wheat, as they can difpofe of it fo readily to the Bakers. Can you fuggeft, from your obfervations, any remedy for thefe evils?------- I know of none, unlefs by repealing the above-mentioned Act It has alfo been dated in converfation, as the opinion of the trade, that if there was but one market day throughout the country, that it would tend to deftroy the practice of Jobbers. Do you confider the practice, which is ftated to prevail, of the fame perfon dealing at the fame time on commiffion and on his own account, to be prejudicial to the public, and how?----- That will depend entirely upon the capital employed, and the power to deal to any great extent. If he can command capital, it certainly would be injurious, in-afmuch as from their capital and connections, they had it in their power to withhold or bring forward fuch quantity as is likely to influence the market. They have a double intereft; and from the knowledge they poflefs as Factors, they are enabled to take unfair advantages. Is it not therefore the intereft of every perfon who has Com which he withes to have fold for him on commiffion,. to abftain from employing perfons who deal for themfelves at the fame time------ I certainly fhould think it to be the intereft of the configner not to employ perfons of that defcription. But in fact there are very few Factors who do not deal for themfelves; there are fome few who are tenacious of their principles, and will not do it
Does not the contracted fpace of the Market, and there being but one in London, tend to limit and confine the number of Factors?------ I think it does in a very great degree, as there is not room fufficient to erect; ftands op expofe the Corn for fale, were there more Factors. Are thofe ftands private property?------ They are; the Com Exchange is private property. Would it be beneficial to the public if Factors were prohibited from dealing on their own account ?------ I think it would materially be fo; and alfo if Millers were prohibited from buying Wheat and Grain to fell again un¬manufactured. Whether by limiting the defcription of purcafcrs, the trade 'in fact would be thrown into fewer hands?------ I fhould confider not; upon the principle I have before mentioned. What is the mode in which the famples of Corn are exported for fale in the Com Market?------ They put the famples into fmall bags upon their ftands; the initials of the name of the configner, and the quantity to which the fample relates, ought to be upon the bag; and generally is fo,. except when the Corn belongs to a Jobber, and then it is concealed, in order that the buyer may not know whofe Corn it be: It is entirely optional in the Faftor to expofe the whole, or to keep back fome of the famples of the Corn configncd to him to fell. I fhould confider it to be a beneficial regulation for the public, if the Corn Factors were obliged to expofe, at the opening of the market, famples of the whole quantity of Corn configned to them to fell, and to mark upon thofe fample bags the exact quantity to which they relate refpectively.— At prefent the effect of keeping back the famples has an evident tendency to keep up the price; for the buyer, not knowing what quantity there really is on hand, is often induced from that caufe to purchafe at a higher price than is really neceffary. If all the encouragement is given to the buyers, would it hot tend to difcourage the venders from bringing their Corn to this Market?------I think not, as I believe the practice before alluded to, to be a recent one, originating in the Factors becoming Dealers on their own account. I fhould apprehend no regulation which I have mentioned would tend to check the fupply of fuch a market as London. Would it be any object to fell Wheat or other Grain by Weight?------ I know of none, except that in the port of London it could not be done, where there are fuch quantities to deliver. [Mr. Crewe, Member for Chefhire, defires to ftate, that in-point of fact, all Grain is fold by weight at Liverpool, and the fame throughout Chefhire, Staffordfhire, and Shropfhire.] Do you think it would be better for the buyer and feller if an equal meafure was ufed through the kingdom?------ I think it would put them much more on an equal footing. |}