LEGCO Paper No. HB 690/95-96
(The minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : HB/C/4/95

Minutes of Meeting of the Bills Committee to study
the Buildings (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 1995

held on Tuesday, 16 January 1996 at 8:30 a.m.
in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Present :

    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP
    Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG, MBE, FEng, JP
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing

By invitation :

The Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong
Mr Kent LWE
Mr A B Lawrence

The Hong Kong Association for the Advancement of Real Estate and Construction Technology Limited
Mr Bosco H N HO
Panel Chairman
Dr Raymond C T HO
Mr David W T CHAN
Dr PANG Kam-chun
Mr CHOY Kang-chow
Mr TAI Sai-ho
Mr WONG Pui-shun

The Administration
Mr Trevor KEEN
Prin Asst Secy for Planning, Environment and Lands
Mrs Helen C P Lai YU
Director of Buildings
Mr CHENG Wei-dart
Asst Director of Buildings (Legal & Management)
Mr A N Watson-Brown
Sr Asst Law Draftsman

In attendance :

Mr Louis KONG
Asst Legal Adviser 3
Mrs Sharon TONG
Chief Asst Secy (BC) 1
Miss Odelia LEUNG
Sr Asst Secy (BC) 1

I. Confirmation of Minutes of Previous Meetings

The minutes of meetings held on 15, 23 November and 12 December 1995 (Ref: LP Nos. HB 301, 357 and 447/95-96 respectively) were confirmed.


II. Meeting with the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong (REDA)

2. The second submission of REDA was tabled at the meeting.

3. The points raised by the representatives and their response to Members’ questions are summarised below.

  1. REDA supported the objectives of the Bill to enhance site safety and to improve the registration system for AP/RSE and registered contractors (RC). It, however, had reservations about the proposal to require the submission of a prescribed supervision plan for any building works and to impose criminal sanction for failure to supervise. These proposals would put owners in the same category of RC in the actual carrying out of construction works. It was unfair to hold building owners criminally liable should anything go wrong with a building project and for matters beyond their knowledge and competence.
  2. REDA considered it not viable to prepare a supervision plan at the design stage of a building project in parallel with other building plans. Most of the personnel required to be specified in the supervision plan to discharge the supervisory duties, in particular the technically competent persons, could not be appointed until after the building plans had been approved. If a supervision plan was submitted after the building plans had been approved, an additional processing time of at least 60 days was anticipated. The whole process would lengthen the construction time, thus boosting up the construction costs to the disadvantage of end users.
  3. Whilst REDA agreed with the concept of supervision plan, it considered that it should not be in a prescribed form. Given the dynamic site circumstances, the AP had to make modifications to the approved building plans as the works proceeded. Since a prescribed supervision plan governed the works procedures, the AP would have to seek the BA’s prior approval before allowing any modifications, however slight, to the approved building plan.
  4. REDA concurred with the HKIA’s view that the submission of a supervision plan might be imposed as a condition for securing the BA’s consent to the commencement of building works. In REDA’s view, a supervision plan should not be submitted to the BA for approval but for record purposes. To facilitate the preparation of a supervision plan, the BA could issue practice notes. Since the parties responsible for different levels of supervision would be spelt out in a supervision plan, REDA considered that there should not be any major difficulties in identifying the persons who should be held liable for the occurrence of an accident.
  5. Although the Building (Administration) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulation 1995 proposed the appointments of "technically competent persons" and "plant operators" for building works, the qualifications of these persons were not specified. Since there would not be any register of such persons, it would be difficult for the building industry to know in advance whether the appointments of persons as such would meet the criteria required by the BA.

4. Referring to point (3)(b) in REDA’s second submission, Mrs Helen YU clarified that the requirement to submit a prescribed supervision plan was intended to apply to all building and street works and not just to demolition works. She also remarked that some of the points of concern could be dispelled or resolved in discussion of the Bill in detail. She urged that an early start be made to study the Bill clause by clause.

5. Mr Edward HO shared REDA’s concern set out in paragraph 3(c). The professions were worrying that any slight modifications to the approved building plans would necessitate the BA’s prior approval and the submission of a revised supervision plan. Mrs Helen YU stated that as explained in an earlier meeting, a supervision plan should be distinguished from a building plan for the overall project. Whether or not the Bill was enacted, the Administration had no intention of disallowing the current practice under which the AP normally submitted a revised plan to the BA listing out minor amendments to the approved plan after the works had been completed. The Chairman said that although the Administration had no intention of changing the current practice, the question of liability would arise in the event that an accident occurred whilst the AP was seeking BA’s approval for amendments to the approved building plan which had already been effected.

6. Regarding paragraph 3(d), Mr CHENG Wei-dart said that at present, it was an administrative measure whereby the BA required the submission of method statements for demolition works before giving consent to the commencement of works. However, after the commencement of works, no sanction could be imposed for failure to stick to the method statements.

7. On paragraph 3(e), Dr Samuel WONG said that the Bill was also unclear as to whether the owner, the AP/RSE or the RC should appoint the technically competent persons.

III. Meeting with Hong Kong Association for the Advancement of Real Estate and Construction Technology (the Association)

8. The first submission of the Association was at LP No. HB 454/95-96. The Association’s further submission was tabled at the meeting.

9. Mr David CHAN went through the Association’s first submission. The supplementary points raised by the representatives are summarised below.

  1. Mr Bosco HO stated that the Association supported the spirit of the Bill to enhance site safety. It objected to the proposed criminal sanction for failure to supervise works and the requirement of a prescribed supervision plan. In the Association’s view, there was already adequate mechanism to enable the BA to monitor site operation. At present, the BA required the submission of method statements before giving its consent to the commencement of demolition works. After the commencement of works, should the BA consider that the works were liable to become dangerous, it could issue cease works orders. The method statements were therefore legally binding. To improve site safety, the Administration should consider following the system adopted by Singapore and being pursued by the Housing Authority under which there was a certain percentage of workers in different types of works who had undergone safety training courses and had been issued with certificates for having satisfactorily completed such courses in each construction site.
  2. Dr K C PANG elaborated the effects of the Bill on the construction industry and his suggestions on how site safety could be improved. The details are set out in a separate submission made by Dr K C PANG attached to the Association’s further submission tabled at the meeting. In gist, Dr PANG said that the Bill, if enacted, would undermine the stability of the construction trade in several aspects. It would discourage persons from taking up the directorship in contractor firms as directors might be personally liable in the event that the supervisory team failed to follow a prescribed supervision plan to the letter. Competent and responsible managers would be reluctant to act as RC’s appointees for the same reason. Increasing prosecution against RC or RC’s appointees for failure to stick to a prescribed supervision plan would reduce the pool of competent persons. The draconian legislation would dampen the aspiration of persons of high calibre to join the construction field. In the long run, the quality of the trade would be compromised. In order to attract competent persons to enter the professions, the industry might have to offer very generous packages which would raise the construction costs. The way ahead in improving site safety should be to educate workers to strengthen their safety awareness and to step up training of safety officers which were in short supply. Dr PANG put forward the following proposals :
    1. To introduce a new registration system for contractors under which contractors would be classified into different categories. The qualifications and experience of contractors should be linked to the nature, scale and complexity of a building project. Contractors in different categories would be eligible for tendering construction contracts of different maximum values;
    2. To require the keeping of performance records of site agents. Based on the track records of a site agent, both the industry and the Government would be in a better position to consider whether he was suitable to be appointed as such;
    3. To implement mandatory safety training to equip workers with basic safety knowledge. Workers in different ranks and engaged in different types of works should attend different training courses and be issued with relevant certificates after completing these courses;
    4. To introduce a phased licensing system for persons involved in the building process to upgrade their qualifications. The Government should consider setting up a body to examine the issue in depth.
      [Post-meeting note: Dr K C PANG’s speaking notes have been circulated to Members vide LP No. HB 517/95-96.]
  3. Dr Raymond HO supplemented that the proposals in the Bill would greatly limit the flexibility of site operation. Site safety could be improved by requiring AP/RSE and RC to station full-time technically competent persons on site and by implementing a registration system for persons involved in construction.
  4. In summing up the Association’s stance, the representatives said that it was unfair to place the supervision duties solely on RC as there were various parties involved in a building project (Ref: two charts in the Association’s further submission). Should the Bill be enacted, AP/RSE, upon completing the design work, would relinquish their roles and shift the supervisory duties to the developer who would in turn have to find a replacement to discharge the AP/RSE’s responsibilities. Site safety would then be even more difficult to be achieved.

10. Mr Edward HO said that the Administration should clarify whether the double standards in respect of criminal liability for failure to supervise works on the part of professionals responsible for public and private construction works would contravene the Bill of Rights.


11. Mrs Helen YU requested time for response, even if briefly, to the points raised by the Association. In view of the limited time available, Members considered it more appropriate to defer discussion with the Administration to the next meeting.

IV. Date of Next Meeting

12. Members asked the Clerk to update the table summarising the deputations’ views and the Administration’s response (Ref: LP No. HB 259/95-96).


13. Members agreed that the Housing Department, the Architectural Services Department and the Works Branch should be invited to attend the next meeting. The next two meeting were scheduled for 25 January 1996 (Thur) at 8:30 a.m. and 6 February 1996 (Tue) at 10:45 a.m.


14. The meeting ended at 10:40 a.m.

LegCo Secretariat
12 February 1996

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