Council Meeting ( Agenda ) 30 January 2002

A 01/02-15

Legislative Council

Agenda
Wednesday 30 January 2002 at 2:30 pm

I. Tabling of Papers

Subsidiary Legislation / Instruments L.N. No.
1.Commodities Trading (Contract Levy) (Amendment) Rules 20029/2002
2.Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (United Kingdom) Order (Cap. 525 sub. leg.) (Commencement) Notice 200210/2002
3.Attachment of Income Orders (Amendment) Ordinance 2001 (20 of 2001) (Commencement) Notice 200211/2002
4.Attachment of Income Order (Amendment) Rules 2001 (L.N. 260 of 2001) (Commencement) Notice 200212/2002
5.Matrimonial Causes (Amendment) Rules 2001 (L.N. 270 of 2001) (Commencement) Notice 200213/2002


II. Questions

1. Hon Albert CHAN to ask:
(Translation)

In his 1999 Policy Address, the Chief Executive states, "a world-class city must have a pleasant and safe living environment". However, the living environment of people in old urban areas has seen little improvement. Moreover, rural development in the New Territories lacks planning, the New Territories Small House Policy has given rise to many environmental problems, and the living environment of many villages is still deplorable. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) of the relevant measures it had drawn up when it stated the objective to improve people's living environment;

    (b)of the measures that have already been implemented, are still being implemented, or are awaiting implementation for achieving the above objective; the specific target completion time of the measures to improve the living environment in old urban areas and address environmental problems arising from the New Territories Small House Policy; and

    (c)whether it has drawn up further specific measures to thoroughly solve the problems concerning people's living environment; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Planning and Lands

2. Hon LEE Cheuk-yan to ask:
(Translation)

I have received complaints about the long time taken by the Labour Department ("LD") in arranging conciliation meetings on labour claims and processing applications for ex-gratia payment from the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund. Furthermore, it has been reported that staff of the LD have complained about substantial increase in their work pressure due to shortage of manpower. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) of the following figures for each branch office of the LD in each of the past three years: the number of claims received, the number of conciliation meetings arranged for claims, the average time taken for convening the first conciliation meeting since a claim has been lodged, the average numbers of conciliation meetings handled and consultative interviews attended by each Labour Officer ("LO") and Assistant Labour Officer ("ALO") on each working day respectively;

    (b)of the respective numbers, broken down by processing time, of applications for ex-gratia payment the LD handled in each of the past three years, as well as the average numbers of cases handled by each LO and ALO on each working day respectively; and

    (c)whether it will increase the manpower of LD to shorten the time taken for arranging conciliation meetings and processing applications for ex-gratia payment, so as to improve the services of the LD and reduce the work pressure of its staff?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Education and Manpower

3. Hon CHAN Yuen-han to ask:
(Translation)

Some private enterprises lay off a significant number of staff despite making substantial profits, while the Financial Secretary has called upon employers to refrain from laying off staff and to consider other cost-cutting options. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) of the countries which have legislation that imposes restrictions on the layoff by companies which make substantial profits, and the details of such restrictions; and

    (b)of the other measures the Administration will adopt, apart from making the above appeal, to make these companies refrain from laying off staff, and whether it will make reference to the experience of the above countries and impose restrictions on layoff by legislation; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Education and Manpower

4. Hon Michael MAK to ask:
(Translation)

On 4th of this month, after investigating a mercury poisoning incident, the Government confirmed that a brand of face cream contained high concentration of mercury, and called on the public to stop using that product immediately. Regarding the safety of cosmetics, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) whether, before the poisoning incident, it had received reports that face cream on sale in the market might be harmful to the human body; if so, of the reasons for its failing to take appropriate follow-up actions immediately to avoid this poisoning incident;

    (b)of the number of reports received over the past three years on indisposition of members of the public after using cosmetics, together with a breakdown by the cause of poisoning or type of illness; and

    (c)how the existing legislation regulates the safety of cosmetics on sale in the market?
Public Officers to reply:Secretary for Economic Services
Secretary for Health and Welfare


5. Dr Hon David CHU to ask: (Translation)

It has been reported that currently an estimated one million or so people in the Mainland are infected with HIV, and there may likely be an upsurge in the number of local infection cases as a result of increasingly frequent cross-border activities. Regarding the curbing of the spread of AIDS, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) of the details of its efforts to curb the spread of AIDS, and how they are prioritized in terms of resource allocation;

    (b)whether it has formulated any specific policies, task objectives, high risk behaviour monitoring systems and cross-border co-operation mechanisms to curb cross-border transmission of AIDS; if not, of the reasons for that; and

    (c)whether it has assessed if the existing health care and other service systems in Hong Kong can cope with an upsurge in the number of persons infected with HIV, and whether contingency measures have been formulated in this respect?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Health and Welfare

6. Hon CHOY So-yuk to ask:
(Translation)

The Home Affairs Bureau and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department recently commissioned a consultant to conduct a study on cultural and performing facilities in different regions and districts, and consultation was conducted in the course of the study. It is learnt that members of certain political parties and community organizations have made requests over the phone to meet the consultant so as to present their views directly, but were refused. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:
    (a) it knows the ways by which the consultant has collected views from different sectors of the community, including political parties; if views are mainly collected by means of consultative forums, whether it has assessed if this is sufficient to gain an in-depth understanding of the opinions of different sectors of the community;

    (b)it knows the reasons for the consultant's refusal to meet individual organizations which have made such requests on their own initiative; and

    (c)it has assessed if it is appropriate for the consultant to refuse to meet individual organizations?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Home Affairs

*7. Hon Bernard CHAN to ask:
In connection with sponsoring visits to Hong Kong by officials of governments and quasi-government bodies in other jurisdictions, will the Government inform this Council of:
    (a) the expenditure on and the number of sponsored visitors to Hong Kong last year;

    (b)the criteria adopted for deciding on the officials to be invited, and the annual quota for sponsored visitors from each jurisdiction; and

    (c)the mechanism for monitoring the effectiveness of the sponsorship programmes?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Home Affairs

*8. Hon LI Fung-ying to ask:
(Translation)

Regarding prosecutions instituted by the Labour Department ("LD") against employers who fail to take out valid insurance policies for their employees in accordance with the law, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) of the respective numbers of employers prosecuted and convicted last year on this account, and of the penalties imposed by the court on those convicted;

    (b)of the number of cases last year in which prosecutions could not be instituted due to the expiration of the statutory period for prosecution, and the reasons for not instituting prosecutions within the statutory period; and

    (c)whether LD has worked out measures to improve the situation mentioned in (b) above; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Education and Manpower

*9. Dr Hon LO Wing-lok to ask:
(Translation)

Regarding the efforts to encourage breast-feeding, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) of the substantive follow-up actions taken by the Department of Health ("DH") and the Hospital Authority ("HA") since the passing of a motion in June 1999 by this Council on the promotion of breast-feeding, and the number of medical practitioners and nurses who have received subsidies for the relevant training;

    (b)of the specific plans to implement the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes;

    (c)of its response to the recommendations in a report of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in 1996 that the Administration should review the effectiveness of its measures to promote breast-feeding, including whether the free distribution of powdered milk in hospitals by milk powder distributors should be allowed; and

    (d)whether there is a central mechanism for coordinating the efforts in promoting and supporting breast-feeding, in particular in the liaison work among the various organizations concerned, such as DH, HA and the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative Hong Kong Association and the co-ordination of their relevant activities; if not, whether it will consider establishing such a central mechanism?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Health and Welfare

*10. Hon LAU Ping-cheung to ask:
(Translation)

In April 2001, the Government publicly invited interested parties to submit detailed proposals for the construction and operation of a cable car system linking Tung Chung and Ngong Ping on Lantau Island under a franchise agreement. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) of the number of proposals received;

    (b)of the expected timing for completion of the selection of the franchisee and announcement of the selection result;

    (c)whether the franchisee is required to make a commitment to complete the construction works by a specified date; and

    (d)whether any department has been tasked to coordinate the progress in developing the cable car system and other tourism projects on Lantau Island; if not, of the reasons for that?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Economic Services

*11. Hon Henry WU to ask:
(Translation)

The Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Ordinance (Cap. 485) provides that the employer may apply for the offsetting of the long service payments ("LSP") payable to a certain employee by the employer-funded portion of that employee's accrued benefits under a Mandatory Provident Fund ("MPF") scheme. If such amount is smaller than the amount of the LSP payable, the employer concerned is still required to top up the LSP for that employee. Under this arrangement, if the employee selects a high-risk investment portfolio for his MPF scheme and the accrued benefits eventually decrease, the amount available for the employer to offset the LSP will also diminish, thus resulting in a corresponding increase in the LSP to be topped up by the employer. Regarding the need for employers to share the risks arising from the investment decisions made entirely by employees, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) of the number of related complaints received so far from employers since the implementation of the MPF Scheme; and

    (b)whether it will review and amend the Ordinance to enable employers to decide for themselves the investment risks of the employer-funded portion, or to allow employers to offset the amount of LSP by the actual MPF contributions they have made regardless of the profit-loss situation on the employee's accrued benefits under the MPF Scheme, or to consider other effective improvement measures; if not, of the reasons for that?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Financial Services

*12. Hon CHAN Kwok-keung to ask:
(Translation)

It has been reported that the Government commissioned a six-month consultancy study in April last year to assist it in reviewing the organisation and management of the Architectural Services Department ("ASD"), as well as its mode of operation and procedures in design, tendering and works supervision, and the Government has announced that it will contract out the design, construction and supervision duties for most Government buildings. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) of the proposals made by the above consultancy study;

    (b)how the current percentage of ASD's project design work which has been contracted out compares with the target percentage under the new arrangement;

    (c)how ASD's staffing needs for various types of works, including management, design, tendering, site supervision and clerical duties compare to those of the existing establishment with increases in contracting out works; and

    (d)whether ASD's procedure for contracting out will be changed?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Works

*13. Hon Eric LI to ask:
(Translation)

Will the Government inform this Council whether, in order to reduce the weight of schoolbags carried by pupils and promote the use of information technology, it has examined the feasibility of replacing schoolbags with "electronic schoolbags"; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that? Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Education and Manpower

*14. Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong to ask:
(Translation)

Some pond fish farmers have complained that a large quantity of fish cultured in their fish ponds often fall prey to wildlife birds, thus affecting their livelihood. However, since these birds are protected under the law, they are not allowed to be trapped, killed or disturbed. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) whether it has conducted studies on the species of birds which habitually feed on fish ponds and their main sources of food;

    (b)whether it has assessed the financial losses suffered by fish farmers from wildlife birds feeding on fish ponds; if so, of the assessment methodology, the financial losses suffered by fish farmers each year and the average percentage of such losses in their total income; if not, whether it will conduct such an assessment;

    (c)whether it has commissioned consultants over the past five years to study the habits of birds feeding on fish ponds and the resultant problems; if so, of the expenditure incurred, the findings and recommendations of such studies, as well as the Administration's response and follow-up actions;

    (d)of the measures in place to assist fish farmers in preventing wildlife birds from preying on the fish cultured in their fish ponds; and

    (e)whether ex-gratia compensation or loans will be granted to fish farmers for purchasing devices to prevent birds from feeding on their fish ponds; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for the Environment and Food

*15. Hon Abraham SHEK to ask:


With regard to court cases in respect of which legal aid was granted in the past three years, will the Government inform this Council of:
    (a) the numbers of civil and criminal cases in which judgement was passed in favour of and against the legal aid recipients respectively; and

    (b)the number of cases in which the legal aid recipients were non-Hong Kong residents, together with a breakdown by the outcome of the proceedings, as well as the total amount of legal aid involved in such cases?
Public Officer to reply : Chief Secretary for Administration

*16. Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung to ask:
(Translation)

The Government allocated $10 million in the financial year 2000-01 for organizing enrichment programmes to develop the potentials of gifted students. Yet it has been reported that the Fung Han Chu Gifted Education Centre, which is established by the Education Department, has ceased to enrol gifted students. In this regard, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) of the long-term policy for grooming gifted students;

    (b)of the number of students who participated in the enrichment programmes last year;

    (c)whether it has assessed the effectiveness of these programmes; if so, of the details;

    (d)of the reasons for the Centre's ceasing to enrol students; and

    (e)how it will cater for the further education needs of the students who have completed the enrichment programmes provided by the Centre?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Education and Manpower

*17. Hon SIN Chung-kai to ask:
(Translation)

With effect from 3 December 2001, customers of different mobile phone network operators can receive and send mobile phone short messages among one another. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether it will issue to the operators a Code of Practice on the prevention of spamming of short messages so as to avoid short message spams causing nuisance to customers; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that? Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting

*18. Ir Dr Hon HO Chung-tai to ask:
(Translation)

The Hongkong Winter Carnival was held on a site adjacent to the Hung Hom Ferry Pier from 8 December 2001 to 13 January 2002. It was reported that a number of patrons had complained that as the site was a sand ground, even a light breeze would churn up a cloud of dust and some patrons felt so uncomfortable that they had to leave early. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) whether it knows the number of complaints received by the organizer about the site being dusty;

    (b)of the grounds on which the Lands Department granted approval to lease the sand ground for use as venue for a carnival; and

    (c)whether some formation work will be carried out for a site on which a carnival will be held prior to handing it over to the organizer, so as to avoid the recurrence of similar incidents?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Planning and Lands

*19. Hon Emily LAU to ask:
(Translation)

In June 2001, mid-stream terminal operators implemented, one after another, the mid-stream fee ("MSF") coupon system under which truck drivers presenting such coupons could enjoy priority in the delivery and collection of containers. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:
    (a) given that the Secretary for Economic Services had advised at a meeting of the Panel on Economic Services of this Council that the Hong Kong Mid-stream Operators Association ("HKMOA") had undertaken not to collect the MSF from truck drivers, whether the coupon system implemented by the operators is a breach of the HKMOA's undertaking; if so, whether the Administration has carried out investigation and taken follow-up actions;

    (b)of the number of complaints received by the Port and Maritime Board under the Economic Services Bureau from truck drivers since 7 June 2001, alleging that the delivery and collection of their containers were delayed by the operators because they could not present the coupons, as well as the outcome of such complaints; and

    (c)whether they will coordinate a quadrilateral meeting among relevant mid-stream organizations, i.e. the China-Hong Kong Transportation Joint Conference, the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association, the Hong Kong Shippers' Council and the HKMOA, in the near future in order to resolve the disputes arising from the charging of the MSF?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Economic Services

*20. Hon LAU Kong-wah to ask:
(Translation)

At the meeting of the Panel on Transport of this Council on 26 October 2001, in response to an enquiry about the co-location of boundary crossing facilities (i.e. officers from the Hong Kong and Shenzhen authorities conducting separate cross-boundary checks within the same premises), the Administration advised that both the Guangdong and Hong Kong sides had agreed on the principle of co-locating immigration and customs clearance on the Shenzhen side, and it was considering, among other things, the legal issues relating to the deployment of officers from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to work in the Mainland. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a) whether it has started discussions with the relevant Mainland authorities on the detailed implementation of the co-location of boundary crossing facilities; if so, of the details;

    (b)of the latest progress of the study on the legal issues concerning the deployment of officers to work in the Mainland; and

    (c)of the estimated time for implementing the co-location of boundary crossing facilities?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Security

*For written reply.

III. Bills

First Reading

1. Dutiable Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2002

2. Companies (Amendment) Bill 2002

Second Reading (Debates to be adjourned)

1. Dutiable Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2002 :Secretary for the Treasury

2. Companies (Amendment) Bill 2002:Secretary for Financial Services


IV. Members' Motions

Rest time and rest days for employees

Hon LAU Chin-shek:
(Translation)

That, as most employees currently do not have rest breaks - some even have no meal breaks, during their working hours, and it has become increasingly prevalent for employers to require their employees to work on rest days, which harms employees' mental and physical health, increases the occurrence of accidents and the contracting of occupational diseases, and also reduces work efficiency, this Council urges the Government to stipulate by legislation that employers should provide their employees with reasonable rest and meal breaks during working hours, as well as to review the existing labour laws with a view to ensuring that employees enjoy the right to have rest days.

Public Officer to attend : Secretary for Education and Manpower

Clerk to the Legislative Council