Council Meeting (Agenda) 5 November 2008



A 08/09-6

Legislative Council

Agenda

Wednesday 5 November 2008 at 11:00 am

I. Tabling of Papers

1.No. 23-Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation Annual Report 2007-2008
(to be presented by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development)

2.No. 24-Hong Kong Productivity Council Annual Report 2007-2008
(to be presented by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development)

3.No. 25-Report by the Trustee of the Customs and Excise Service Children's Education Trust Fund for the year ending 31 March 2008, together with the Director of Audit's Report and the Audited Statement of Accounts
(to be presented by the Secretary for Security)

II. Questions

1. Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung to ask:
(Translation)

Recently, a few firemen unfortunately died on duty at the fire scene. There have been comments that the existing fire-fighting equipment and facilities of the Fire Services Department ("FSD") are inadequate, and the salary of firemen is also lower than those of staff in other disciplined forces. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether the authorities will, in addition to purchasing breathing apparatus of new models and considering the replacement of the Fire Services Communication System, review and enhance other fire-fighting equipment and facilities of FSD, and review the salary of firemen; if so, when they will conduct such reviews and implement relevant enhancement measures; if not, of the reasons for that?

Public Officer to reply:Secretary for Security
Secretary for the Civil Service

2. Hon Frederick FUNG to ask: (Translation)

Although the price of live pigs from the Mainland has recently dropped by 20% to 30% from the peak price recorded early this year, the retail price has not dropped correspondingly, resulting in a situation of "quick-in-going-up but slow-in-coming-down". The Food and Health Bureau has called on the public to consider buying other meat products such as chilled pork. Besides, the report of the Consumer Council's Study on Live Pig Pricing on 7 August came up with similar findings and pointed out that a small number of buyers were involved in making unusual "aggressive" bids in the auction of live pigs, and the trade alleged that these are acts of market-boosting by buyers of large syndicates or big supermarkets. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a)of the average monthly wholesale, import and retail prices for fresh and chilled pork from the Mainland in the past ten months, and the changes in price, including whether there is a corresponding drop of the retail price; whether the retail price of chilled pork has dropped along with the import price; whether the difference in the retail price for fresh and chilled pork has widened; if not, whether it has examined if such situation reflects that similar price-boosting activities are happening in the trading of chilled pork;

    (b)whether it has studied why the price of fresh pork from the Mainland has not dropped correspondingly; if it has, of the study results; whether it has uncovered cases of buyers or retailers engaging in price-boosting activities for profiteering; if it has, what immediate counter measures are taken by the authorities so as to urge the retailers to lower the price expeditiously; and

    (c)whether it has studied if any structural problem exists at any level of the supply chain of pork from importing to retailing, resulting in situations such as the market becoming less competitive and conducive to price-boosting; if it has, of the study results and the long-term improvement measures to be put in place; if not, whether it will examine ways to reform the pork market to ensure that consumers benefit in the end?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Food and Health

3. Ir Dr Hon Raymond HO to ask:
(Translation)

It has recently been reported that the Hong Kong Housing Authority ("HA") has incurred losses amounting to $2 billion in securities investments in this financial year. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a)whether HA will review and revise its investment strategy, with a view to reducing the investment losses caused by the present financial tsunami;

    (b)whether it has assessed if the above losses will have any impact on HA's flat production programme and provision of existing services to public housing tenants; and

    (c)what measures HA will adopt to ensure that the investment losses will not increase the rental burden on public housing tenants?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Transport and Housing

4. Dr Hon PAN Pey-chyou to ask:
(Translation)

Under the Employment Ordinance, if an employee who is employed under a continuous contract has served a notice of pregnancy on her employer, the employer shall not dismiss such employee during the period from the date on which her pregnancy is confirmed to the date on which she is due to return to work on the expiry of her maternity leave. However, I have learnt that quite a number of employees were dismissed by their employers on the day of their return to work from maternity leave. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a)of the respective numbers of complaints received by the Labour Department ("LD") in each of the past three years about employees being dismissed by their employers on the day of their return to work from maternity leave; and, among them, the number of cases in which LD instituted prosecutions against the employers concerned and the number of employers convicted;

    (b)whether it will extend the above period of employment protection enjoyed by pregnant employees so that employers may not unreasonably dismiss employees within the six months following the expiry of their employees' maternity leave; and

    (c)whether it will expand the functions of the Equal Opportunities Commission and empower the Commission to prosecute employers suspected of having violated the Sex Discrimination Ordinance or the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance, particularly those provisions relating to pregnancy discrimination?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Labour and Welfare

5. Hon WONG Kwok-hing to ask:
(Translation)

I have earlier received a complaint from a worker who said that after becoming physically handicapped due to a work-related injury, he had lost his capacity to work and his application for disability allowance was also repeatedly rejected by the Social Welfare Department ("SWD") on grounds that he had been certified by a medical practitioner as not being in a position broadly equivalent to a person "with a 100% loss of earning capacity", and hence his condition did not fall within the meaning of "severely disabled". Besides, there have been comments that due to different assessment criteria adopted by medical practitioners, people with similar degree of disability are often accorded different medical assessment results. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a)whether SWD will review the eligibility criteria for disability allowance, including defining "100% loss of earning capacity" more clearly;

    (b)whether the authorities will review and improve the existing guidelines and criteria relating to medical assessments, so as to solve the problem of inconsistent medical assessment results; if they will not, of the reasons for that; and

    (c)how the authorities will enhance the transparency of medical assessments and the appeal mechanism concerned, such as whether they will explain in detail to applicants the reasons for rejecting their applications?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Labour and Welfare

6. Hon CHEUNG Hok-ming to ask:
(Translation)

Regarding the vetting and approval of applications by the Town Planning Board ("TPB") for planning permission for use of land as open storage and port back-up, and the environmental problems resulting from such land uses, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a)as an applicant claimed that although he had submitted the necessary technical assessments as required, his request for planning permission was rejected by TPB on grounds that the requirement in respect of traffic volume had not been met, leaving him unsure of what to do, whether the Government knows the criteria adopted by TPB for assessing whether the traffic volume in the district concerned has met the requirement, and whether such criteria include the area of the land involved and the hourly vehicular flow;

    (b)whether the Government will recommend TPB to extend the period of planning permission granted for the above temporary land uses outside designated areas from the current "not exceeding three years" to "not exceeding five years" or a longer period, so as to encourage operators of open storage areas to commit resources to installing comprehensive supporting facilities; and

    (c)given that heavy goods vehicles often use private roads (such as Fairview Park Boulevard) to access areas used for the above land uses, thus causing nuisance to the residents in the vicinity, and owners of the private roads having to bear the costs for maintaining the road surface as a result of accelerated wear and tear, and resulting in frequent disputes between them and members of the transportation industry, whether the authorities will consider resuming the private roads concerned, or resolving these problems with other solutions?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Development

*7. Hon CHAN Hak-kan to ask:
(Translation)

Some young people have relayed to me that presently, most young people aged between 20 and 30 years are not eligible to apply for public rental housing because their incomes exceed the income limit, but they cannot afford private housing flats which typically cost over a million dollars each. On the other hand, the Hong Kong Housing Society ("HKHS") once implemented the Home Starter Loan Scheme ("HSLS") whereby eligible families and singletons are granted low-interest home starter loans of amounts up to $600,000 and $300,000 respectively. However, HSLS was discontinued in 2002. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:
    (a)it knows the respective numbers of applications which HKHS received from families and singletons under HSLS each year from 1998 to 2002, the respective numbers of approved and rejected applications among them, the total amount of loans granted, and the respective percentages of cases of repayment of loans on time and default in loan repayment; and

    (b)it will discuss with HKHS the re-launching of HSLS; if not, of the reasons for that?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Transport and Housing

*8. Ir Dr Hon Raymond HO to ask:
(Translation)

In recent years, a number of novel investment products, some involving high-risk derivatives, have been launched by financial institutions and sold to retail investors through banks. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:
    (a)besides the web site and television programmes on investor education produced by the Securities and Futures Commission, it has promoted basic investment knowledge through other means, including the radio;

    (b)it will produce leaflets and require distributors of investment products to distribute the leaflets to members of the public who intend to buy such products, so as to draw their attention to the matters to note before making investment decisions; and

    (c)it will require that, where the nature of the investment products allows, the relevant sales contracts shall contain a provision on a cooling-off period to enable investors to unconditionally terminate such contracts during the period?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury

*9. Dr Hon David LI to ask:


The Building Management (Amendment) Ordinance 2007 came into operation on 1 August 2007 with the aim of rationalising the appointment procedures of a management committee, and assisting owners' corporations ("OCs") in performing their duties and exercising their powers. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a)of the respective numbers of OCs formed under the Building Management Ordinance (Cap. 344) in each of the 12-month periods beginning on 1 October each year from 2002 to 2007;

    (b)of the average number of enquiries handled each month by the District Building Management Liaison Teams ("DBMLT") under the Home Affairs Department ("HAD") in the 12-month period ended 30 September 2008;

    (c)of the number of exemption certificates issued in the 12-month period ended 30 September 2008 to convenors for obtaining a free copy of record of owners of the building from the Land Registry for the purpose of convening a meeting of owners to form an OC; and

    (d)whether the HAD provides to owners wishing to form an OC any assistance, other than that provided by the DBMLT (including distribution of information booklets) and the Property Management Advisory Centres of the Hong Kong Housing Society; if so, of the details of such assistance?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Home Affairs

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

The Consumer Council ("CC") has recently received an extra allocation of $5 million from the Government to expand its commodities price survey project to provide consumers with more comprehensive price information on commodities. There are comments that as price surveys are conducted by CC each time on commodities of different kinds and brands taken from different districts, the survey results only reflect the retail prices of the day, but not price trends, and thus have little reference value. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council whether it knows:
    (a)the criteria adopted by CC for choosing commodities for price surveys, and a list showing the number of commodities, ratio of weekly repeated items, as well as the number of retail points covered in the price surveys over the past six months;

    (b)if CC will change its approach by conducting price surveys on commodities of the same kinds and brands, in particular, of daily necessities, for showing the price trends to increase their reference value; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

    (c)if CC has discovered cases in which small shop owners raised their commodity prices after learning from the CC's announcement on the price survey that their commodities were selling at the lowest prices, and cases of major supermarket chains lowering the prices of the related commodities immediately after the release of the price survey results but resuming the old prices a few days later; if there have been such cases, of the CC's counter measures?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development

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

Concerning the regulation on the safety of cosmetic and skin care products in the market, will the Government inform this Council whether:
    (a)it has received in the past two years complaints about skin allergies or other indispositions after using the above products; if it has, of the details;

    (b)it has found, by way of tests in the past three years, that such products contained substances which are harmful to the human body or toxic; if it has, of the details;

    (c)it has reviewed the existing regulatory measures on the safety of such products, and how it ensures that the products are free of substances which are harmful to the human body; and

    (d)it knows if at present, all such products bear a date of manufacture and an expiry date, and whether the authorities will consider imposing regulation through legislation?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development

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

I have recently received quite a number of complaints from members of the public alleging that the surfaces of slab-paved pavements were uneven, which even caused them to stumble. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a)of the number of relevant complaints received and the number of injuries reported in the past two years;

    (b)whether it has studied the potential hazards caused by such slab-paved pavements to pedestrians, in particular children and the elderly; if it has, of the study results; if not, the reasons for that;

    (c)of the measures in place to ensure that government departments and public utility corporations will carry out restoration works to slab-paved pavements properly after completing their works on underground facilities; and

    (d)whether it has any plan to use other materials instead of slabs to pave pavements; if it has, of the details of the plan; if not, the reasons for that?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Transport and Housing

*13. Hon Frederick FUNG to ask:
(Translation)

It is learnt that often there are significant discrepancies between the weather information such as temperature and relative humidity recorded at the headquarters of the Hong Kong Observatory ("HKOH") and that recorded at district weather stations. Members of the public had told me that high temperatures at 33℃ or above were recorded by a number of district weather stations at around noon on 22 September while the temperature recorded at HKOH was apparently lower. The Hong Kong Observatory ("HKO") issued the Very Hot Weather Warning only at around 3:00 pm that day. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a)how the figures of average temperature and relative humidity recorded at HKOH compare with those recorded at district weather stations over the past three years, and the reasons for such discrepancies;

    (b)whether, in considering the temperature and relative humidity for deciding if the Very Hot Weather Warning should be issued, HKO takes into account the figures recorded at HKOH only; if so, whether it has reviewed if the Very Hot Weather Warning can reflect the actual current weather conditions in different districts; if it has, of the results; if not, the reasons for that; whether it will consider issuing the district-based Very Hot Weather Warning; and

    (c)whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the meteorological observing system for assessing the weather stress index adopted by HKO during the staging of the Olympic and Paralympic Equestrian Events in Hong Kong; whether it will consider publishing weather reports through that system; if it will, of the implementation timetable; if not, the reasons for that?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development

*14. Hon CHEUNG Kwok-che to ask:
(Translation)

In December 1995, the Government decided not to extend Neighbourhood Level Community Development Projects ("NLCDPs") in the light of its gradual decline in demand, and that the existing NLCDPs would be terminated when the project area was demolished and redeveloped. Besides, the NGO Forum on Community Development ("the Forum"), coordinated by the Home Affairs Bureau to serve as a platform to discuss community development issues, has not held any meeting since March 2006. Regarding the provision of subvented community services, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a)of the amount of financial resources released each year upon the termination of the NLCDPs in Shek Kip Mei and Wong Chuk Hang Estates, and whether such resources have been redeployed to finance other community service projects; if so, of the respective amounts of annual expenditure for each project;

    (b)of the NLCDPs that will be terminated in the coming two years, and the districts to be affected; and

    (c)when the next Forum meeting will be held?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Home Affairs

*15. Dr Hon LAM Tai-fai to ask:
(Translation)

Owing to the global economic downturn triggered off by the recent financial crisis of the United States and with the tightened credit facilities by banks, small and medium enterprises ("SMEs") in Hong Kong find their businesses increasingly difficult to operate. In order to assist SMEs in tiding over the difficulties and preventing the unemployment problem from worsening as a result of the collapse of SMEs, will the Government inform this Council whether:
    (a)it will consider allowing SMEs to defer the payment of provisional tax for one year and making arrangements for them to pay profits tax by instalments;

    (b)it will consider exempting SMEs from payment, for one year, of the rates charged on their owner-occupied premises; and

    (c)it will request the Hong Kong Export Credit Insurance Corporation to raise the maximum limit of credit insurance for SMEs and relax the requirements for applying for credit insurance in relation to goods to be exported to emerging markets such as Russia, the Middle East and Africa;

    (d)it will consider halving all government fees and charges in relation to SMEs' businesses for one year;

    (e)it will consider relaxing the restrictions on the use of factory buildings to allow SMEs to use premises in such buildings for exhibition, distribution and wholesale purposes;

    (f)specific measures have been put in place to urge banks to stop tightening the credit facilities for SMEs and remove the measure of deferring payment of credit card transaction proceeds to businesses; if they have, of the details of such measures; if not, the reasons for that;

    (g)it will, with reference to the Special Finance Scheme for SMEs in 1998 and the Loan Guarantee Scheme for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Impacted Industries in 2003, consider raising the Government's risk-sharing factor to at least 70% under the current SME Loan Guarantee Scheme; if it will not, of the reasons for that; and

    (h)it will discuss with the mainland authorities concerned and urge them to effect relief measures in respect of the fees, charges, subsidies and tax rebates etc. on businesses operated by Hong Kong businessmen?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development

*16. Hon LAU Wong-fat to ask:
(Translation)

The Regional Flag and Regional Emblem Ordinance stipulates that, whenever the national flag is flown together with the regional flag, or the national emblem is displayed together with the regional emblem, the national flag or the national emblem is to occupy a more prominent position. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a)whether there are statistics on the existing number of government buildings and venues with two or more flagstaffs for flying the national flag together with the regional flag; and

    (b)among the buildings and venues referred to in (a), of the number of those with flagstaffs of the same height, and thus failing to comply with the above requirement when the national flag is flown together with the regional flag, and as it has been over 10 years since the reunification of Hong Kong, whether the Government has any plan to carry out modification works to such flagstaffs, so as to meet the above requirement when the national flag and the regional flag are flown together; if so, when such works will be completed; if not, the reasons for that?
Public Officer to reply : The Chief Secretary for Administration

*17. Hon IP Kwok-him to ask:
(Translation)

As Members of this Council are provided, with effect from the Fourth Legislative Council, with an end-of-service gratuity and annual accountable medical allowance of $25,000, will the Government inform this Council whether presently it has any plan to provide such remuneration arrangements for District Council members; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Home Affairs

*18. Hon CHAN Hak-kan to ask:
(Translation)

Quite a number of members of the public have relayed to me that the number of pet keepers in Hong Kong is increasing, but the public space for use by pets and their owners together, including parks for pets, is inadequate, and the Government should provide more pet parks. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a)of the current number and location of pet parks in Hong Kong;

    (b)whether the Government has regularly conducted surveys in the past three years on users' views on pet parks, and reviewed the facilities available in the pet parks as well as made improvements accordingly;

    (c)of the criteria adopted by the Government for determining the location and size of pet parks;

    (d)whether presently it has any plan to provide new pet parks; if so, of the location of these parks; and

    (e)whether it will consider opening some parts of the parks which presently do not admit pets for use by pets and their owners, provided that this will not affect other members of the public and environmental hygiene?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Home Affairs

*19. Hon James TO to ask:
(Translation)

In his policy address delivered last month, the Chief Executive stated that the Government would study a number of district projects, including "extending the footbridge system in Mong Kok to cover central Mong Kok and the Tai Kok Tsui area", and "study the feasibility of conducting medium and long-term re-planning of the harbour, improve the accessibility of the harbourfront and, …… proceed with the construction of waterfront promenades". In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
    (a)given that in reply to my question in May last year, the Government indicated that the extension works of the pedestrian footbridge at Mong Kok Road were expected to be completed by the end of 2009, but it has recently been reported that the Transport Department advised that there was quicksand underneath the proposed location for the bridge columns and the works were thus suspended, whether the Government has assessed if the works will be completed on schedule;

    (b)of the details of the above study on the extension of the footbridge system in Mong Kok to cover Tai Kok Tsui area, including the scope of the study and its completion date;

    (c)given that in commissioning the consultancy study on Area Improvement Plan for the Shopping Areas for Mong Kok earlier, the Planning Department ("PD") also explored the proposal to construct a footbridge along Argyle Street, but the proposal was subsequently rejected on grounds that the footbridge foundations would decrease vehicular capacity, whether the Government will reexamine the proposal; if it will, of the details;

    (d)given that it was proposed in the Report of the Hung Hom District Study commissioned by PD that a waterfront promenade should be developed in Hung Hom, whether the Government will draw up a timetable for implementing the proposal; and

    (e)whether the Government will study the reprovisioning of a number of the existing public facilities along the West Kowloon waterfront, such as the Yau Ma Tei Cargo Handling Area, so as to avoid impeding PD from implementing the proposals to develop the land along the waterfront, which were put forth in the Report of the Planning Study on the Harbour and its Waterfront Areas published in 2003?
Public Officer to reply : Secretary for Development

*For written reply.

III. Bills

First Reading

Public Health and Municipal Services (Amendment) Bill 2008

Second Reading (Debate to be adjourned)

Public Health and Municipal Services (Amendment) Bill 2008:Secretary for Food and Health

IV. Motions

Proposed resolution under the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance

Secretary for Food and Health to move the following motion:


Resolved that the Food Business (Amendment) Regulation 2008, published in the Gazette as Legal Notice No. 185 of 2008 and laid on the table of the Legislative Council on 2 July 2008, be amended by adding -
    "6.No live poultry at retail premises overnight

    (1)Section 30AA is amended by adding -

    "(1A) If a black rainstorm warning or a gale warning is in force at any time between noon and 8:00 p.m. on a day, a permittee is exempt from compliance with subsection (1)(a) on that day and from compliance with subsection (1)(b) between 8:00 p.m. that day and 5:00 a.m. the next day.".

    (2)Section 30AA(3) is amended by adding -

    ""black rainstorm warning" (黑色暴雨警告) has the meaning given to it by section 71(2) of the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance (Cap. 1);

    "gale warning" (烈風警告) has the meaning given to it by section 71(2) of the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance (Cap. 1);".".
V. Members' Motions
  1. Proposed resolution under the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance

    Hon Mrs Regina IP to move the following motion:

    RESOLVED that in relation to the Employees Retraining Ordinance (Amendment of Schedule 3) Notice 2008, published in the Gazette as Legal Notice No. 208 of 2008 and laid on the table of the Legislative Council on 8 October 2008, the period for amending subsidiary legislation referred to in section 34(2) of the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance (Cap. 1) be extended under section 34(4) of that Ordinance to the meeting of 26 November 2008.

  2. Old age allowance and universal retirement protection system

    Hon Fred LI: (Translation)

    That this Council reiterates that the Government should immediately increase the rates of the Old Age Allowance to not less than $1,000 per month and fully adhere to the original intention of showing respect for the elderly, and should not introduce any new means test mechanism under the Old Age Allowance Scheme; at the same time, this Council urges the Government to commence studying the establishment of a universal retirement protection system to enable all elderly people to have comprehensive retirement protection and enjoy a dignified and comfortable life in their twilight years.

    Amendments to the motion
    (i)Hon Tommy CHEUNG: (Translation)

    To delete "reiterates that the Government should immediately increase the rates of the Old Age Allowance to not less than $1,000 per month and fully adhere to the original intention of showing respect for the elderly, and should not introduce any new means test mechanism under the Old Age Allowance Scheme" after "That this Council" and substitute with "welcomes the Chief Executive's announcement that the rates of the Old Age Allowance will be increased to $1,000 per month and the Government will study whether the permissible limit of absence from Hong Kong under the Old Age Allowance Scheme can be relaxed"; to delete "commence" after "urges the Government to" and substitute with "comprehensively examine the existing welfare policy for the elderly to ensure that elderly people who have financial difficulties and are not on the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance can also receive certain form of living supplement, and when"; and to delete "to" after "universal retirement protection system" and substitute with ", the Government must ensure that the system will not increase the burden on the next generation and will".

    (ii)Hon WONG Sing-chi: (Translation)

    To delete "reiterates that the Government should immediately increase the rates of the Old Age Allowance to not less than $1,000 per month and fully adhere to the original intention of showing respect for the elderly, and should not introduce any new means test mechanism under the Old Age Allowance Scheme" after "That this Council" and substitute with "welcomes the Chief Executive's withdrawal of the proposal of introducing a means test mechanism under the Old Age Allowance Scheme after listening to the opposing voices of this Council and the public, and his acceptance of this Council's view to increase the rates of the Old Age Allowance to $1,000 per month"; and to add "in view of the pressure on public finance as a result of the ageing population in the future," after "at the same time,".

    (iii)Hon TAM Yiu-chung: (Translation)

    To delete "reiterates that the Government should immediately increase" after "That this Council" and substitute with "welcomes the Government increasing"; to delete "not less than" after "the rates of the Old Age Allowance to"; to delete "adhere" after "fully" and substitute with "adhering"; to delete ", and should not introduce" after "showing respect for the elderly" and substitute with "by not introducing"; to add ": (a)" after "urges the Government to"; and to add "; (b) consider implementing an 'elderly maintenance grant scheme' in addition to the existing Old Age Allowance and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance system, so that those elderly people who are aged 60 will receive a monthly living supplement from the Government after making a simple asset declaration; (c) further relax the permissible limit of absence from Hong Kong for Old Age Allowance applicants; and (d) increase the value of elderly health care vouchers to $1,000 and lower the eligibility age for such vouchers to 65, so as" after "universal retirement protection system".

    Public Officer to attend : Secretary for Labour and Welfare

  3. Preventing the lower and middle classes from being trapped in hardship amid the financial tsunami

    Hon Albert HO: (Translation)

    That, as the free economy system of Hong Kong has caused the local economy to fluctuate with the external environment, the governance philosophy of a free market economy upheld by the Government also allows the disparity between the rich and the poor to persist for years in Hong Kong; the lower and middle classes are not able to benefit when the economy is growing and cannot save money or capital to fight against adversity, and the social security system is not comprehensive; as a result of the financial tsunami, the Hong Kong economy is now about to enter into recession and many people in the lower and middle classes may fall into hardship, which has become a major challenge to the Government's governance; while the Government has undertaken to fully support the financial and banking industries and take measures to support the small and medium enterprises, it should at the same time pay more attention to the impact of the financial tsunami on the lower and middle classes; this Council urges the Government to adopt various measures to protect the lower and middle classes from being trapped in hardship, including:

    (a)setting up a special committee chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration to constantly monitor and assess the impact on the lower and middle classes when the Hong Kong economy is in times of financial crisis and to put forward corresponding measures;

    (b)focusing on the over-reliance of the local economy on the financial and real estate sectors, developing eco-tourism and recycling industries etc, so as to create low-skilled jobs, and reduce the impact of the global financial conditions on the economy system of Hong Kong and its labour market;

    (c)expeditiously implementing the 10 major infrastructure projects undertaken in the Policy Address of last year, accelerating the construction of infrastructures such as public housing estates and hospitals, expediting the redevelopment of old urban areas, repair and renovation of old buildings, inspection of buildings and removal of unauthorized building works, so as to expeditiously create employment opportunities to counteract the impact of the financial tsunami on the employment rate;

    (d)promoting the development of social enterprises, assisting the disadvantaged in making effective use of social capital and creating employment opportunities through the improvement of legislation, funding allocation, training and education, and administrative support, etc, so as to alleviate the difficulties of the disadvantaged in seeking employment in times of economic recession; and

    (e)strengthening the support to low-income families, including assisting the unemployed recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance in securing employment, creating temporary jobs in various sectors of social services, expanding the 'Transport Support Scheme' and extending the duration of subsidy, as well as expeditiously enhancing the food bank services, etc, so as to make up for the inadequacies of the social security and employment protection systems.

    Amendments to the motion
    (i)Hon Tommy CHEUNG: (Translation)

    To delete "as the free economy system of Hong Kong has" after "That," and substitute with "under economic globalization, Hong Kong's position as an important global financial centre and its free and open economy system have"; to add "more easily" after "fluctuate"; to add ", including introducing further relief measures such as reducing rates, Government rent and salaries tax" after "corresponding measures"; to add "the Task Force on Economic Challenges having to strive to explore specific measures to revitalize the local economy and, in particular," after "(b)"; to add "identifying corresponding strategies and promoting more comprehensive development of the economy, including" after "real estate sectors,"; to delete "and" after "developing eco-tourism" and substitute with ", taking the initiative to bid for the hosting of international activities, polishing the brands of Hong Kong as a 'culinary capital' and an 'events capital', providing more logistics back-up sites and facilities to strengthen the status of Hong Kong as a logistics centre and to support"; to add "and expediting the implementation and commencement of the outstanding projects of the ex-Municipal Councils," after "building works,"; to delete "and" after "economic recession;"; and to add "; and (g) assisting as far as possible the families in the lower and middle classes in reducing expenses and lessening their burden, urging the power companies to expeditiously adjust the fuel clause surcharge and basic tariff downwards, and taking effective measures to alleviate the impact of high oil prices on various trades and industries and the public" immediately before the full stop.

    Amendment to Hon Tommy CHEUNG's amendment
    Hon Ronny TONG:
    (Translation)

    To delete "reducing" after "measures such as" and substitute with "waiving"; to delete "," after "rates" and substitute with "and"; to add "(capped at $5,000 per quarter) for a year," after "Government rent"; to add "holding over provisional" before "salaries tax"; to add "and profits tax" before "; (b)"; to add "local public works and" after "commencement of"; and to add ", including introducing competition," after "effective measures".

    (ii) Hon CHAN Kam-lam: (Translation)

    To delete "the free economy system of Hong Kong has caused the local economy to fluctuate with the external environment, the governance philosophy of a free market economy upheld by the Government also allows the disparity between the rich and the poor to persist for years in Hong Kong; the lower and middle classes are not able to benefit when the economy is growing and cannot save money or capital to fight against adversity, and the social security system is not comprehensive; as a result of the financial tsunami," after "That, as"; to delete "now" after "Hong Kong economy is"; to add "the whole community, especially" after "enter into recession and"; to add "," after "in the lower and middle classes"; to add "also" after "it should"; to delete "more" after "pay"; to delete "setting up a special committee chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration to constantly monitor and assess the impact on" after "(a)" and substitute with "through the Task Force on Economic Challenges chaired by the Chief Executive, constantly monitoring and assessing the impact on major industries and"; to delete "to put" after "financial crisis and" and substitute with "putting"; to add "actively supporting and assisting small and medium enterprises, including formulating preferential policies for trades and industries, and offering concessions to those trades and industries which are conducive to the restructuring of Hong Kong's economy and increasing of employment opportunities; studying splitting major government projects to enable more small and medium enterprises to undertake such projects; promoting the development of new points of growth in the economy, including creative industries and healthcare service industries; fostering at a faster pace cooperation in cross-boundary travels; making effective use of the land in border areas to turn Hong Kong into an all-year-round capital of exhibitions and sales; deepening the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement and expeditiously discussing with the Guangdong Provincial Government more cooperation plans;" after "real estate sectors,"; and to add ", revitalizing the community economy, utilizing vacant land in remote areas, such as Tin Shui Wai and Tung Chung, to develop commercial projects which can increase employment opportunities," after "social capital".

    Public Officer to attend : The Financial Secretary
Clerk to the Legislative Council