LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1942/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/BC/36/95

Bills Committee on Veterinary Surgeons Registration Bill

Minutes of Meeting
held on Wednesday, 28 May 1997,
at 8:30 am in Conference Room B
of the Legislative Council Building

Members present:

    Hon LAW Chi-kwong (Chairman)
    Dr Hon HUANG Chen-ya, MBE
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon MOK Ying-fan
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP

Members absent :

    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP

Public Officers attending :

Mr E A Johnson
Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services
Assistant Director (Agriculture & Regulation)
Agriculture and Fisheries Department
Dr R B Bousefield
Senior Veterinary Officer
Agriculture and Fisheries Department
Mr W B Maddaford
Senior Assistant Law Draftsman

Clerk in attendance:

Ms Estella CHAN
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)4

Staff in attendance :

Ms Bernice WONG
Assistant Legal Adviser 1
Ms YUE Tin-po
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)6 (Atg)

I.Discussion among members

1.Concerning composition of the Veterinary Surgeons Board (the Board), members considered a balanced representation would enable the Board to receive different viewpoints across the whole spectrum of the veterinary profession on qualification standards of veterinary surgeons. The Board should have an open attitude in considering applications for registration from veterinary surgeons who were not Members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS) of United Kingdom. This would avoid discrimination and enable qualified non-MRCVS to practise. They reckoned that the six veterinary surgeons to be appointed to the Board should comprise not less than three persons who were non- Commonwealth qualified veterinary surgeons so as to maintain fairness and credibility of the Board. Some members proposed that the above condition should be prescribed in the Bill.

2.Mr IP Kwok-him considered it too rigid to stipulate in the Bill the ratio of non-Commonwealth qualified veterinary surgeons on the Board. He suggested specifying the details in this respect in the subsidiary legislation to be submitted after enactment of the Bill.

3.Dr HUANG Chen-ya also considered stipulating a fixed ratio of commonwealth and non-Commonwealth qualified veterinary surgeons on the Board not appropriate, especially in the long term. He proposed a transitional provision in clause 3 of the Bill to ensure that the ratio was maintained when the Board was initially set up. Mr NGAN Kam-chuen supported the proposal.

4.The Assistant Legal Adviser (ALA) advised that it might be more appropriate to include the proposed provision as part of the transitional arrangements stipulated under clause 29A in the draft CSAs provided by the Administration. In the context of this clause, the transitional provision on composition of the Board would be effective for up to a maximum of 18 months.

II.Discussion with the Administration

Follow-up on outstanding issues

[LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1707/96-97]

5. In response to the Chairman’s question on the criteria for becoming MRCVS, the Assistant Director/Agriculture & Regulation (AD/A&R) advised that graduates holding a degree in veterinary science from universities of United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa would automatically become MRCVS and were allowed to practise veterinary surgery in United Kingdom without having to pass examinations of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. He further advised that to obtain a veterinary degree in these countries, a student had to go through a minimum of five to seven years comprehensive training in veterinary science in accordance with the criteria set by the governments.

Composition of the Veterinary Surgeons Board

6. In response to members’ proposal to include not less than three non-Commonwealth veterinary surgeons on the Board, the Principal Assistant Secretary/Economic Services (PAS/ES) said that suitability for appointment to the Board by the Secretary for Economic Services would be assessed on the basis of a person’s professional training, practical experience and personal standing, rather than by reference to specific qualifications. Persons would be appointed in their personal capacity and not as representatives of any particular groups within the profession. The establishment of the Board under such criteria would ensure openness in acceptance of qualifications from different parts of the world and high standards of veterinary care, and enhance the confidence in Hong Kong’s veterinary profession.

7. PAS/ES remarked that qualifications of veterinary surgeons to be accepted by the Board for the purpose of registration should not be predetermined at this stage. The proposal to stipulate the ratio of Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth qualified veterinary surgeons on the Board was also undesirable as it would have a divisive effect on the determination of qualification standards for registration. Furthermore, it would reduce the flexibility for making appointments to the Board and might even inhibit the Board from addressing the qualifications issue in an open and fair manner.

8. The Senior Assistant Law Darftsman (SALD) advised that provisions in the Bill were similar to those in the Chiropractors Registration Ordinance (CRO) (Cap. 428). The Chairman, however, pointed out that as the expertise and requirements of the two professions were different, it might not be appropriate for the Bill to adopt the same provisions as the CRO.

9. AD/A&R further advised that the majority of veterinary surgeons who had the requisite experience and expertise for appointment to the Board were MRCVS and were currently employed by organizations like the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Ocean Park, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Government or running their own private practices. Members’ proposal to appoint not less than three non-Commonwealth qualified veterinary surgeons to the Board might limit the contribution from these veterinary surgeons who had in-depth understanding of the veterinary profession in Hong Kong. In addition, as the expertise and professional requirements for each area of veterinary services were fairly independent from each other, it would be necessary to include veterinary surgeons with different areas of expertise on the Board to advise Government on registration matters. There might be difficulty in finding appropriate non-Commonwealth qualified veterinary surgeons with a particular area of expertise for appointment to the Board.

10. Members were not convinced by the Administration’s explanation. Their main concern was that if only MRCVS were appointed to the Board, they might set rigid registration standards on the basis of their own qualifications so as to protect their interests. In this connection, members considered it important for the Board to include a wide and balanced representation of different viewpoints across the profession. The ratio of veterinary surgeons with Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth qualifications should be predetermined for the establishment of the Board in order to ensure that the qualifications issue could be addressed in an open, fair, transparent and non-discriminatory manner. The Administration was requested to review the matter.

Clause-by-clause examination

Clause 11 - acceptance or refusal of registration

11.Mr IP Kwok-him considered it necessary to provide a channel for veterinary surgeons to appeal against the Board’s decision on their registration applications. SALD advised that judicial review could be sought in this respect. In addition, AD/A&R explained that according to clause 13, the Board might appoint a registration committee of not less than three of its members to consider the qualifications of applicants. It might also delegate any of its functions relating to registration and renewal of registration to the registration committee, which would subsequently make recommendations to the Board on acceptability of the qualifications, but the Board should not be bound by such recommendations. In this connection, applicants could appeal to the Board against the recommendations made by the registration committee. Administratively, the registration committee would only be delegated to deal with renewal of registration and make recommendations for the Board’s approval. Matters to do with presentation of new qualifications should always be decided by the Board. Mr IP accepted the Administration’s explanation and requested confirmation of the above in writing.

    (Post-meeting note: The Administration’s written confirmation was circulated vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1904/96-97 dated 20 June 1997.)

Clause 24 - use of title

12.Mr IP kwok-him considered it necessary to impose statutory control on those persons who did not qualify as registered veterinary surgeons but used the title "veterinary surgeon" and gave advice on diagnosis of disease in animals at places such as pet shops. As the public might not be knowledgeable about the difference between a "registered veterinary surgeon" and a "veterinary surgeon", to allow the use of the title "veterinary surgeon" might be deceptive.

13. In response, AD/A&R advised that a person whose name did not appear on the Register of veterinary surgeons was not entitled to describe himself as a "registered veterinary surgeon". Government had no statutory control to prohibit a person from describing himself as a "veterinary surgeon" if he did not practise veterinary surgery or provide veterinary service in Hong Kong. However, he stressed that in accordance with clause 16, no person would be allowed to give advice on diagnosis of disease in animals unless he was a registered veterinary surgeon.

14.Members had no further comments on other clauses of the Bill.

III.Any other business

15.Members considered it unnecessary to hold any further meeting to discuss the Bill. At their request, the Administration undertook to provide a response to the Bills Committee’s proposal regarding composition of the Board within a few days. Members agreed that if the Bills Committee was not satisfied with the Administration’s response, it would move appropriate CSAs to stipulate the desired composition of the Board.

(Post-meeting note: The Administration’s response was circulated vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1783/96-97 dated 4 June 1997.)

16.The Chairman advised that once the legal aspects of the Bill and the revised CSAs were in order, the Bills Committee would report its deliberations to the House Committee on 13 June 1997. Members also agreed that the House Committee should be verbally informed on 6 June 1997 of the Bills Committee’s recommendation for the Bill to resume Second Reading at the sitting on 23 June 1997.

17.The meeting ended at 10:40 am.

Legislative Council Secretariat
26 June 1997

Last Updated on 11 December 1998