LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 206/96-97Vice-Chairman
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/BC/31/95/2
Clerk in attendance :
- Ms Vivian KAM
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)2
Staff in attendance
- Ms Kitty CHENG
- Assistant Legal Adviser 2
- Miss Becky YU
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1)3
I Meeting with deputations
Meeting with the Hong Kong Youth Concern Group on Housing Policy - Caritas Community Centre, Kowloon
(Appendix A of LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1898/95-96)
In response to the Chairman and on behalf of the Hong Kong Youth Concern Group on Housing Policy (the Group), Mr WONG Lee-man welcomed the opportunity to meet with members of the Bills Committee to present their views on the two Bills. Miss CHIANG Wai-yu and Mr Billy LAY said that while the Group acknowledged the intentions of the Bills to increase accountability and credibility of the Housing Authority (HA), they could not agree entirely with the proposals in either Bill. They did not support the proposal in the Housing (Amendment) Bill 1996 for LegCo to assume a passive role by simply vetting the list of appointees put forward by the Administration. They also felt that the proposed ratio of members from the three-tier system of representative government in HA under the Housing (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 1996 was restricting public participation unnecessarily. The group had prepared a counter-proposal at Appendix A of the information paper for members consideration. Mr MUNG Siu-lam explained that under the proposal, the size of membership of HA would remain at 25 including four public officers. The remaining 21 members would be selected from amongst candidates in an open nomination whose eligibility would be assessed by a nomination committee established under LegCo in accordance with criteria to be decided by LegCo. The list of potential appointees would then be submitted to the Governor who might at his discretion approve, or veto as a whole and not selectively, those persons recommended by the nomination committee up to a maximum of three times for the latter, after which the nomination committee should be dissolved and re-elected. The Chairman and Vice Chairman of HA should be elected from amongst its members. Mr LAY emphasized that the proposal would have the advantages of facilitating public participation through the proposed open nomination process; maintaining operational efficiency of HA; enabling effective communication between the Administration and HA with the retention of four public officers; as well as ensuring a proper check and balance mechanism through the participation of LegCo.
2. Hon LEE Wing-tat considered that the proposal was similar to his Bill apart from the order of proceedings; he sought elucidation on the process of open nomination referred to in paragraph (2) of the information paper and the measures for ensuring a fair nomination. Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee enquired about the yardstick for assessing the eligibility of candidates. A member also pointed out that the capability of candidates which was vital in facilitating the work of HA had been omitted in the proposal. Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing expressed reservations at the proposed establishment of a nomination committee as this would create unnecessary disputes among LegCo members. Ms LAU re-iterated that she was in favour of proposals in the Housing (Amendment) Bill 1996 as this would ensure a proper check and balance in the appointment system.
3. In response, Mr LAY stressed that the objectives of the proposal were to increase accountability and credibility of HA through public participation. The important point was to remove any unnecessary hurdles so that persons who were interested in housing-related issues would be eligible for candidacy in the open nomination. As regards the eligibility criteria including the capability of candidates, Mr LAY said that these should be devised by LegCo and incorporated in the terms of reference of the nomination committee. On the last point, Mr LAY remarked that as members of the nomination committee would be elected from amongst LegCo members through negotiation, this should not create the problem as envisaged by Ms LAU.
4. In referring to paragraph (4) of the information paper, Mr LEE was not convinced that there was a proper check and balance mechanism since the Governor could repeatedly refuse to endorse the list of appointees put forward by LegCo. Some members enquired about the circumstances under which the Governor could exercise his power to veto the list of appointees. In reply, Mr LAY held the view that the transfer of nominative power from the Administration to LegCo was already a warranty for greater credibility. He did not think that the Governor would repeatedly refuse to approve the list. As regards the circumstances under which the Governor should invoke his power, Mr LAY said that while he would welcome any reasons for rejection of nominees which might be provided by the Governor, he understood that under the existing system, the Governor was given full discretion to approve or veto any legislation without cause. The proposal had already imposed a constraint on such a power but it would be for LegCo to decide whether such a constraint was adequate.
5. Mr LIU was of the view that the proposal represented a total departure from the current executive-led government system and sought elucidation from the Group in this respect. Mr LAY advised that the proposal was built on the principle of "separation of powers" which conformed with the definition of executive-led government system presented by the Chief Secretary (CS) at the LegCo sitting on 13 March 1996. He emphasized that the statement by CS that "the Administration proposes and the legislature disposes" should not be interpreted in a narrow sense. In reply to a related question, Mr LAY advised that while the Group had no intention to extend its proposal to other statutory bodies at that point in time, a comprehensive review on the appointment system would be desirable after the proposal had become operational for a certain period.
Meeting with the Hong Kong Peoples Council on Public Housing Policy
(Appendix B of LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1898/95-96)
7. Mr LAW Chau considered that the introduction of the Bills was only a small step towards democratizing HA. The proposals in both Bills were too conservative when compared with those outlined in the white paper of the Hong Kong Peoples Council on Public Housing Policy (the Council) at Appendix B of the information paper, in particular on the lack of input from the grass-root level. Mr LAW said that proposals in the white paper were more desirable as these aimed to implement the democratization of HA in two stages; the ultimate goal was to elect members of HA through universal suffrage by the year 1999.
8. In response to members on the composition of HA as suggested in the white paper, Mr LAW explained that the proposed membership size of HA would be 25. Of these, six would be appointed by the Administration with the remaining elected from each of the 19 district housing advisory committees (DHACs) established to deal with housing-related matters within the districts. Members of DHACs would include representatives from both private and public premises including public rental estates, temporary housing areas and squatters, and these representatives would be elected alongside the election of District Boards. Members sought clarification on the eligibility criteria for DHACs in view of the large number of eligible candidates. Mr LAW considered this a technical issue which could be resolved either through legislative procedures as in the case of Mutual Aid Committees or Owners Corporations, or by empowering HA to devise its own standards for DHACs. On the time required for setting up DHACs, Mr LAW reckoned that this could be accomplished within a short period if the Administration was determined in implementing the proposal; he quoted the example of the establishment of the Estate Management Advisory Committees in eight public rental housing estates.
9. As regards the operation of the appointment system, Mr LAW advised that as the ratio of appointed members under the white paper was relatively small, the Governor should be accorded full discretion in appointing these members to HA. As to the effect on the appointment system in the event of reduction in the number of districts across the territory, Mr LAW advised that the number of eligible candidates from each district could be adjusted. The objective was to ensure that the majority of members in HA would come from the grass-root level.
10. Members sought clarification from the Council on its stance on the two Bills. Mr LAW said that they were in favour of Mr LIUs Bill in view of the similarities between the Bill and the white paper although representation from the district level should be increased. On the possible implications of the white paper on other statutory bodies, Mr LAW held the view that all statutory bodies which had significant influence on the livelihood of the public, in particular those concerning transportation, health and welfare services, as well as education, should be geared towards greater transparency and accountability.
11. Before concluding, the Chairman remarked that while the Bills Committee appreciated the intentions of both the Group and the Council to revamp the composition of HA, it could not act upon either proposal unless members agreed to introduce Committee Stage Amendments on the basis of suggestions made therein.
II Meeting with the Administration
12. Commenting on the Groups proposal, Miss Sandy CHAN considered that the objective of the proposal was consistent with the Administrations goal in continuing to increase the transparency, accountability and credibility of HA. She also understood that the proposal sought to enhance the monitoring role of LegCo without compromising the operational efficiency of HA. However, proposals made by both deputations and the Bills would upset and confuse the independent roles of the executive and the legislature. Under the circumstances prescribed in these propositions, the same group of people would be deciding on and at the same time monitoring policies of HA. This would inevitably lead to confusion over their roles. Ms CHAN considered it imprudent for the existing appointment system to be changed fundamentally as it had proven to be effective and well-tried. She also questioned if the eligibility criteria to be devised by LegCo would be different from those currently adopted by the Administration. As to the effect of these propositions on other statutory bodies, Ms CHAN did not agree that this should only be assessed at a later stage. She urged members to consider at that point in time the implications of these propositions for other statutory and advisory bodies totalling approximately 300 in number.
13. In referring to the Councils white paper, Ms CHAN could not agree with the allegation that HA was operating behind closed doors as information papers about HA were from time to time provided to the LegCo Panel on Housing and were made available to the public as well. Furthermore, the Secretary for Housing who was responsible for co-ordinating housing policy including HAs policy, was accountable to LegCo. Ms CHAN emphasized that the Administration recognized the importance of community interests and to this end had included members from the grass-root level in HA. In addition, various channels had also been established to collate views from residents of both public and private housing flats and to increase opportunities for consultation.
III Any other business
14. Members agreed to hold the next meeting on Monday, 23 September 1996, at 10:45 am.
(Post-meeting note: The meeting was subsequently re-scheduled to Monday, 4 November 1996 at 8:30 am)
15. There being no other business, the meeting closed at 12:40 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
1 November 1996
Last Updated on 10 December 1998