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Committee are of opinion that this evil is inherent in the nature of an Assize, and must erist in any Statute which could be devised; but with regard to the others, as the Committee found the returned prices of Wheat were correct, they inquired into the expediency of setting the Assize of Bread by them, and they found on the part of the Bakers a settled repugnance to any such arrangement; and it was also represented to Your Committee, that the quality of Wheat, and consequently the quantity of Bread which can be obtained from it, varies so materially from year to year, and from place to place, that no average quality could be fixed on by which to form a table, which would not in favorable seasons, leave to the Baker far too large a profit in surplus bread, and in others (such as the present) might even compel him to sell more bread for the price of a quarter of Wheat than could possibly be made from it; whilst at all times it could not fail to give the Bakers an inducement to buy none but the finest and most productive Wheats, and materially to discourage the sale of those of lower quality ; and it was further represented, that the Wheat Returns are subject to frequent and sudden variations, from the demand at one market happening to be for the best, and at another solely for inferior Wheats: For which reasons Your Committee are led to conclude, that no benefit is likely to result from any mode which could be resorted to in London, of fixing the Assize of Bread by the price of Wheat.
Your Committee next inquired how far it might be possible to obtain true returns of the price of flour; and they found by including the whole of the sales now made in open market, and by compelling the sellers of flour to make the return and not the bakers, that some improvement might be made ; but as the greater part of the flour consumed in London is disposed of to the bakers on long NO. XI. Pam.
credit, in the way before described, your Committee are of opinion, no returns of those purchases, whether made by buyer or seller, could very materially differ from the imperfect returns at present obtained ; and with regard to the frauds which your Committee were assured are now practised in making the returns of the prices of flour, the inducement to have recourse to them under any regulations of assize must be so strong, and the difficulty of detection so great, that your Cornmittee are of opinion, that no enactment could avail entirely to prevent them : and generally, with regard to fixing the assize of bread by the price of flour, your Committee beg leave to point out, that no benefit can be expected to result from it, beyond that of fixing a rate upon the labor and profits of the bakers, whilst the miller and mealmen must be left wholly without any controul ; and your Committee are distinctly of opinion, that more benefit is likely to result from the effects of a free competition in their trade, than can be expected to result from any regulations or restrictions under which they could possibly be placed.
Your Committee being thus led to conclude, that any remedy to the evils arising from the assize could hardly be brought about by an alteration in the law, beg leave also to point out, that the competition which has arisen, even under the discouragement of an assize, has already removed a part of the evil ; and your Committee are of opinion, that if the trade was thrown open by the repeal of the assize laws, it would have the effect of gradually drawing persons with capital into it, of diminishing the waste of labor and unnecessary subdivision of profits, which appear by the evidence at present to exist.
That your Committee have found an opinion to be ex. tremely prevalent, that assize laws operate beneficially as
measures of police, and by removing from the bakers to the Magistrate all responsibility for the price of bread, ensure when that price is high the tranquillity of the metropolis. But your Committee could not find that any disturbances had arisen, or were at all apprehended from the suspension of the assize in the populous towns of Birmingham, Manchester, and Newcastle ; and are of opinion, that the value of the assize laws in this point of view is so secondary, as not to counterbalance the evils apparently resulting from them.
That your Committee thought it their duty to examine the act of the 53d of Geo. III. and they observe generally, with regard to that statute, that it has been so short a time in operation as not at this moment to be duly judged of, though it cannot fail to be liable to the general objections which your committee have pointed out as applicable to all assize laws.
Finally, Your Committee came to the following resolution :
Resolved. That it is the opinion of this Committee, That it is expedient that the bread assize laws for the city of London, and within ten miles of the Royal Exchange, should be forthwith repealed.
June 6, 1815.