LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1911/95-96
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/BC/31/95/2

Bills Committee on
Housing (Amendment) Bill 1996 and
Housing (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 1996

Minutes of Meeting
held on Friday, 21 June 1996 at 10:45 am
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee (Chairman)
    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
    Hon CHAN Kam-lam
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung
    Hon LAU Hon-chuen, JP
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee

Members Absent :

    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP

Public Officers Attending :

Mr Dominic S W WONG, OBE, JP
Secretary for Housing
Miss Sandy P S CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing
Mrs Clarie LO
Deputy Director of Housing (Administration)
Housing Department

Staff in Attedance :

Mrs Vivian KAM
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)2
Mr LEE Yu-sung
Assistant Legal Adviser 1
Miss Becky YU
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)3

I. Election of Chairman

Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee was elected Chairman of the Bills Committee.

II. Presentation by Hon LEE Wing-tat on the Housing (Amendment) Bill 1996

(Appendix II to LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1633/95-96)

2. Hon LEE Wing-tat briefed the Bills Committee on the purpose of the Bill which was to amend the Housing Ordinance (Cap 283) to increase transparency, accountability and representativeness of the Housing Authority (HA) by empowering the Legislative Council (LegCo) to approve or veto as a whole, and not selectively, those persons appointed by the Governor as members of the HA. The list of potential appointees to the HA should be introduced to the LegCo by way of subsidiary legislation and would be subject to normal legislative procedures. During the period of scrutiny of the subsidiary legislation, potential appointees could be invited to meet with LegCo Members to exchange views on housing related matters. This would ensure a proper monitoring and check and balance mechanism in the appointment system without prejudice to the Governor’s power of appointment. The ultimate aim of the Bill was to bring improvements to housing related issues in Hong Kong.

III. Presentation by Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee on the Housing (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 1996

(Appendices III and IV to LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1633/95-96)

3. Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee advised that the purpose of the Bill was to change the composition of the HA to enhance public involvement and credibility and to strike a correct balance between the interests of parties concerned. Under the proposed arrangement, the HA should consist of six persons nominated by and from the LegCo; a person nominated by and from each District Board (18 in total); and not more than 12 other persons, not being public officers, who had experience and knowledge in housing-related matters. The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the HA should be elected from amongst its members. Mr LIU emphasized that since membership of the HA would still be by appointment by the Governor, the Bill was not seeking to change the existing appointment and executive-led system. He welcomed any views which members might have on his proposals.

IV. Meeting with the Administration

(Appendix V to LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1633/95-96)

4. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr Dominic S W WONG briefed the Bills Committee on the appointment of members to the HA and the effect which the two proposed Bills would have on the appointment mechanism. Mr WONG said that when appointing members to Government boards and committees, the Administration would take into account the interests of various sectors of the community as well as the tasks and functions of the board or committee concerned. Members of the HA were appointed in their personal capacities on the basis of general experience, knowledge of housing and related matters, position and reputation in their own sector or profession, and ability to contribute to the efficient and effective operation of the HA. The existing membership comprised representatives from various professions and sectors and had made possible a fair balance of professional expertise and community interests.

5. Proposals in the two Bills would, in the Administration’s view, upset the balance and lead to insufficient expertise in the professional disciplines concerned. The vetting of appointments to the HA by the LegCo as proposed in the Housing (Amendment) Bill 1996 was at variance with the executive-led government system and would fetter the Governor’s power of appointment. The two Bills would lead to confusion over the role of the executive and the legislature and would have serious implications on other statutory and advisory bodies such as the Hospital Authority, the Mass Transit Railway Corporation, the Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation and the Land Development Corporation. On these bases, the Administration strongly objected to the proposals in the two Bills.

6. Mr WONG emphasized also that the current system was an effective and well-tried one. The Administration was concerned that the Bills would alter the existing fair and independent mechanism of appointing the best candidates, politicise the choice of candidates, and remove the balance between professional expertise and community interests in the HA. Consequentially, future policy decisions of the HA might be inclined towards making political compromises rather than in the wider interests of the community. The proposed election to the key posts of HA Chairman and Vice Chairman was considered undesirable in view of the significant influence which these posts had on policy decisions. The existing appointment system should be upheld in order for the Administration to select suitable personalities to ensure independence and impartiality.

Discussion Session

7. In referring to the proposed addition of sub-section 3(2)(2A) under the Housing (Amendment) Bill 1996 which stipulated that "No order shall be made under sub-section (2)(c) unless a draft of it had been laid before and approved by resolution of the Legislative Council, and section 34 of the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance (Cap 1) shall not apply in relation to any such order", a member asked whether similar restraints on the power of appointment of the Governor existed in other legislation and enquired about its possible implications. The Assistant Legal Adviser undertook to prepare a comparison on the mechanism of appointment to other statutory bodies including the Governor’s power of appointment and nomination process for members’ consideration at the next meeting.

8. A member sought elaboration from the Administration on the reasons for objecting to the vetting system proposed under the Housing (Amendment) Bill. He referred to Article 90 of the Basic Law (BL) on the appointment and removal of judges and enquired if the system of appointment specified therein was contrary to the executive-led system. Another member took a different view and considered a direct comparison between the appointment of judicial officers and members of the HA inappropriate since the HA was an executive arm of the Administration. Mr WONG emphasized that the vetting of appointments by the LegCo was unprecedented in the case of the HA as well as other statutory bodies. The proposed arrangements would politicize the choice of candidates and reduce the pool of independent and candid advice which was vital to the existing appointment system. The proposal represented a departure from the present executive-led government system as well as the BL.

9. Members were not convinced that the present membership of the HA was a fair and balanced composition having regard to the small number of community representatives. They sought elaboration on how the views of the grass root level could be reflected through the existing appointment system taking into account the decrease in membership of the three-tiers representative government in the past three terms. Mr WONG advised that members of the HA were appointed from a wide cross-section of the community on the basis of individual merits, as outlined in the Annex to the information paper, in order that the obligations of the HA to the community as a whole could be carried out efficiently and effectively. As regards the membership for the last three terms, Mr WONG emphasized that the Administration did not have a fixed membership for each category. The important point was to appoint the best candidates so that future HA policies would be formulated in an independent, impartial and unbiased manner. In reply to a member, Mr WONG advised that the policy of appointment to the HA had already been spelt out in the information paper provided. He was however not in a position to provide information relating to other statutory and advisory bodies since these fell under the remit of the Secretary for Home Affairs.

10. While a member supported the proposed participation of LegCo in the appointment of members to the HA, she expressed reservations at the HA composition proposed in the Housing (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill. The member considered proposals in the Bill too rigid and sought clarification from Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee on: the rationale for nomination by both the LegCo and the District Boards (DBs); the yardstick for assessing the requisite experience and knowledge outlined in sub-section 3(2)(c) of the Bill; and whether the appointment system would be re-instated in the event the Chief Executive (CE) of the future Special Administrative Region was elected through universal suffrage. Mr LIU advised that it was not uncommon for the LegCo to nominate its Members to serve on executive boards of statutory bodies, and quoted the case of the Court of the University of Hong Kong and the Council of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The proposed nomination by DBs had been suggested on account of their representativeness and reference had been made to both the Urban Council and the Regional Council Ordinances. Mr LIU said that he would welcome further suggestions in this respect. As regards sub-section 3(2)(c), Mr LIU advised that the spirit of the clause was to provide for flexibility for the Administration to appoint suitable candidates to the HA. On the last point concerning the re-instatement of the existing appointment system after the election of the future CE, Mr LIU considered this feasible since the incumbent so elected would have the general support of the public.

11. Another member expressed concern over the implication which the proposed increase in membership of the three-tier representatives would have on the operation of the HA. She was worried that the proposed election of Chairman and Vice Chairman would politicize the HA and sought elaboration from the two members-in-charge of the Bills in this respect. Mr LEE re-iterated that the objective of his Bill was to increase transparency, accountability and representativeness of the HA through the introduction of a proper monitoring and check and balance mechanism in the appointment system. The Bill did not seek to interfere with the operation of the HA. In response to a member, Mr LEE advised that no time limit had been specified for LegCo to approve or veto the list of potential appointees and that further consideration would have to be given in the event of deadlock between LegCo and the Administration. On the other hand, Mr LIU considered that his Bill would introduce flexibility and increase representativeness in the HA membership.

V. Way Forward

12. Members agreed to hold the next two meetings on 9 July 1996 at 2:30 pm and 29 July 1996 at 10:45 am. The Administration was requested to consider inviting officials from other policy branches to the next meeting on 9 July 1996 to advise on the appointment of members to other statutory bodies. They also agreed to meet with deputations if written representations were received.

13. There being no other business, the meeting closed at 12:40 pm.

LegCo Secretariat
26 July 1996

Last Updated on 10 December 1998