LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 961/96-97
(The minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/BC/43/95/S2
Bills Committee on the Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Bill
Minutes of the 6th Meeting held on Tuesday, 12 November 1996 at 2:30 pm in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building
Members Present :
Hon James TO Kun-sun (Chairman)
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP
Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU, OBE, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon TSANG Kin-shing
Members Absent :
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP*
Dr Hon Samuel WONG, OBE, FEng, JP*
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan*
Public Officers Attending :
- Security Branch
- Mrs Sarah KWOK
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
- Miss Agnes TSE
- Assistant Secretary for Security
- Fire Services Department
- Mr LAM Chun-man
- Chief Fire Officer (Protection), Fire Protection Bureau
- Mr Peter WONG
- Senior Engineer (Protection), Fire Protection Bureau
- Buildings Department
- Mr CHEUNG Hau-wai
- Assistant Director/Legal and Management
- Mr LAM Siu-tong
- Chief Building Surveyor/Legal (Acting)
- Legal Department
- Mr Duncan BERRY
- Consultant, Law Drafting Division
Clerk in Attendance :
- Mrs Sharon TONG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2)1
Staff in Attendance :
- Mr Stephen LAM
- Assistant Legal Adviser 4
- Miss Salumi CHAN
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2)1
I. Discussion with the Administration
(Appendix to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 124/96-97)
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 299/96-97(01))
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 351/96-97)
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 423/96-97)
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2082/95-96)
(Appendix to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2169/95-96)
Annex to the Administrations written reply dated 11 October 1996
Members continued to discuss with the Administration the summary table on the 22 commercial premises inspected by the Buildings Department (BD) and the relevant layout plans.
Department store (Case No.1: FSD Ref. #17)
2. The Administration tabled a 3-page layout plan of the department store (FSD Ref. #17) to replace the original one with only two pages. Chief Building Surveyor/Legal (Acting) of the BD briefed members on
the deficiencies identified in the department store and the required improvement works.
(Post-meeting note: The 3-page layout plan of the department store was circulated to absent members after the meeting under LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 423/96-97.)
Off-course betting centres (Case No.1)
3. Chief Building Surveyor/Legal (Acting) of the BD advised that the deficiency identified in the 4-storey betting centre in question was that the total width of its exit routes (2200 mm) was less than that required (2500 mm). It would therefore be necessary to provide an additional exit staircase in the betting centre by upgrading an existing circulation staircase by enclosing it with fire resisting construction material.
4. Mr Edward HO noted that the total width of exit routes of the betting centre only fell short of the standard requirements by 300 mm. He queried whether it was really necessary to carry out the required improvement works to rectify this minor deficiency and, whether there were any alternatives. Chief Building Surveyor/Legal (Acting) of the BD advised that the required improvement works would not involve substantial alteration works and that practical difficulties were not envisaged.
5. As the layout plan of the betting centre should have been approved by the Building Authority (BA) some years ago, Mr Edward HO asked whether there had been a change in standard since the approval of the layout plan. Assistant Director/Legal and Management of the BD advised that the layout plan had been approved according to the 1986 Code of Practice on Means of Escape (MoE Code) where there was no specification of the requirements for off-course betting centres. As such, the requirement for the total width of exit routes of an off-course betting centre had been calculated according to the requirement for a retail shop. In view of the significant customer flow in off-course betting centres in recent years, specification of the requirements for this category of premises was made in the 1996 MoE Code under which the total width of exit routes of an off-course betting centre was set to be 2500 mm.
Jewellery and goldsmith shops (Case No.1: FSD Ref. # 3)
6. Some members queried why jewellery and goldsmith shops were covered by the Bill. Chief Fire Officer (Protection) of the Fire Services Department (FSD) explained that following the fire at the Shek Kip Mei branch of the Hongkong Bank in January 1994, the Interdepartmental Investigation Team found that there were security areas in banks separating the staff from the customers. In case of fire, it would be difficult for the staff to leave the scene. The Interdepartmental Investigation Team therefore considered that any commercial premises having similar security facilities as those of banks and with significant customer flow should also be covered by the Bill. Jewellery and goldsmith shops therefore fell into this category.
7. Members pointed out that some modern or small jewellery and goldsmith shops did not have security areas. In fact, some jewellery shops did not have significant customer flow. It was unreasonable to cover them by the Bill.
|8. After discussions, the Chairman requested the Administration to consider whether it was necessary to apply the Bill to all jewellery and goldsmith shops and whether it would be sufficient to cover only those with security areas.||Adm|
Item (a) of the Administrations written reply dated 31 October 1996
Items (i) and (ii) of the Administrations written reply dated 4 November 1996
Impact of the Bill on the issue of occupation permits of new buildings by the Building Authority
9. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security advised that the issue of an occupation permit to a building depended on whether it satisfied the requirements under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap.123). The requirements specified in Schedule 2 of the Bill were not relevant considerations. Members were concerned that the BA could, shortly after the issue of an occupation permit, issue a fire safety direction requiring improvement works be carried out in the building concerned.
10. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security emphasized that the enforcement authorities would prioritize their enforcement action according to the level of risk of the premises concerned. Buildings which were considered to be at higher risk would be dealt with first while newly completed buildings with better equipped fire safety measures would be accorded a lower priority.
Annex to the Administrations written reply dated 31 October 1996
11. After discussions, members accepted the Administrations proposed division of responsibilities between owner and occupier in the provision of fire safety measures as listed in Annex to the Administrations written reply dated 31 October 1996 except in two aspects: the provision of emergency lighting for shopping arcade and the compliance with the construction requirements under paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 of the Bill.
Provision of emergency lighting for shopping arcades
|12. Members considered it more appropriate for the owner to provide emergency lighting for the common areas of a shopping arcade and, occupier of individual shops for those areas which were for his/her own exclusive use. The Administration agreed to look into this proposal.||Adm|
Compliance with the construction requirements under paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 of the Bill
13. Some members considered that in most cases, the usage of commercial premises was decided by the tenant/occupier, not the landlord/owner. If the premises were used for one of the prescribed commercial activities listed in Schedule 1 of the Bill, the premises would be covered by the legislation. As such, it seemed unfair to require the owner to carry out improvement works to comply with the construction requirements under paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 of the Bill, having regard to the fact that he was not the one who decided the usage of the premises and that the tenancy agreement might expire shortly after the completion of the improvement works. By then, the occupier might move out and the premises would no longer be used for the prescribed commercial activities. Chief Building Surveyor/Legal (Acting) of the BD advised that as construction requirements normally involved building works which would affect the premises, it would be more appropriate for the property owner to be responsible for the required improvement works. If the occupier was held responsible, he had to seek the consent of the owner for carrying out those improvement works.
|14. In respect of shopping arcades, however, members considered it more appropriate for the owner to be responsible for complying with the construction requirements in the common areas while occupier of individual shops for those areas which were for his/her own exclusive use. The Administration agreed to look into this proposal.||Adm|
Item (h) and Annex D of the Administrations written reply dated 30 August 1996
Information on relevant overseas legislation
15. In response to the Chairmans enquiry, Consultant, Law Drafting Division advised that the Bill was not based on any overseas legislation. It was devised for the condition in Hong Kong. The Fire Safety Act 1971 in Singapore was, in very broad terms, similar to the provisions in the Bill.
16. The Chairman pointed out that members were concerned that under the Bill, the enforcement authorities could issue a fire safety direction to the owner of a newly completed building requiring improvement works be carried out to bring it up to the current fire safety standard. Members would like to know whether there were similar provisions in relevant overseas legislation. Consultant, Law Drafting Division advised that similar provisions were made in the Fire Safety Act 1971 in Singapore. For example, under section 13(1) of the Act, the enforcement authority might serve a fire hazard abatement notice requiring action be taken to abate the fire hazard within a specified period. It might also specify any works to be executed for that purpose in the notice, including improvement works to meet the construction requirements.
|17. The Chairman considered that if similar legislative provisions were only available in Singapore, it was not convincing to introduce such practices in Hong Kong. At the Chairmans request, the Administration agreed to provide a comparison on the provisions of the Bill with those of relevant legislation in some other overseas countries.||Adm|
Item (i) of the Administrations written reply dated 30 August 1996
Whether the powers provided in the Bill could be circumscribed, for instance by restricting the applicability of the Bill to commercial buildings completed before a specific cut-off date
18. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security advised that the Administration considered it inappropriate to specify a cut-off date to restrict the applicability of the Bill. However, the Administration would set a priority and target its enforcement action against those 500 buildings, which were mostly constructed before 1973 and did not have sprinkler systems, in the first three years after the passage of the Bill.
|19. In response to Mrs Selina CHOWs enquiry, Chief Fire Officer (Protection) of the FSD advised that buildings completed after 1987 should have the five items of fire service installations and equipment listed in paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 2 of the Bill, including "an automatic sprinkler system". Members were concerned when enforcement action would be taken against these buildings, in particular those completed in the recent few years. Mrs Miriam LAU requested and the Administration agreed to draw up an implementation schedule listing the time frame and target of enforcement action in various phases.||Adm|
Item (k) and Annex E of the Administrations written reply dated 30 August 1996
Item (d) and Annex B of the Administrations written reply dated 20 September 1996
Consultation exercises in 1994 and 1995
20. At the first Bills Committee meeting held on 18 July 1996, the Administration had advised that the feedback from the industry in the two consultation exercises respectively conducted in 1994 and 1995 was supportive. Mr Ronald ARCULLI had then indicated his concern about whether there were any variations in the contents of the consultation papers and those of the Bill.
21. In respect of the provision of fire service installations and equipment, Chief Fire Officer (Protection) of the FSD advised that the five items listed in paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 2 of the Bill were the same as those included in paragraph 2.1 (page 20) of the 1994 Consultation Paper and paragraph 7(a) of the 1995 Consultation Paper.
22. In respect of the provision of adequate means of escape, means of access and fire resisting materials, Chief Building Surveyor/Legal (Acting) of the BD advised that the requirements under paragraph 2(2) of Schedule 2 of the Bill were similar to those included in paragraph 7 (b), (c) and (d) of the 1995 Consultation Paper.
The Administrations written reply dated 12 November 1996
23. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security took members through the Administrations written reply dated 12 November 1996 responding to the joint submission from the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong (REDA) and Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA). The written reply was tabled at the meeting.
(Post-meeting note: The written reply was circulated to absent members after the meeting under LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 423/96-97).
The Administrations responses to paragraph 7 of the joint submission
24. In response to the Chairmans enquiry, Assistant Director/Legal and Management of the BD advised that though the Buildings Ordinance was not applicable to the Housing Authoritys premises, the Housing Authority had issued internal guidelines requiring the compliance of the design of its buildings with the safety standards stipulated in the Buildings Ordinance and that, the relevant layout plans be submitted to the BD for examination.
Paragraph 9 of the joint submission
|25. The Chairman noted that the Administration had not, in its reply dated 12 November 1996, responded to paragraph 9 of the joint submission. The Chairman considered it important for the Bills Committee to be advised of the implications of the Bill on foreign investments in Hong Kong. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security agreed to provide a written response to the concern expressed at paragraph 9 of the joint submission.||Adm|
The Administrations responses to paragraphs 10 and 11 of the joint submission
|26. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security noted members concern that the BA should not issue a fire safety direction shortly after the issue of the consent to commence works or occupation permit.||Adm|
The Administrations responses to paragraphs 12 and 13 of the joint submission
27. Some members were not convinced by the Administrations reply that the enforcement authorities were not vested with excessive discretionary power under the Bill. They pointed out that the enforcement authorities had wide discretionary power in deciding whether to accept the excuse of an owner of prescribed commercial premises for failing to comply with a fire safety direction as a reasonable excuse and, whether to accept the alternative improvement works proposed by the owner. Assistant Director/Legal and Management of the BD advised that any deviations of a layout plan from the legislative requirements would be considered by a departmental committee, not by an individual officer. It was the committee to decide whether the deviations were reasonable and acceptable. Moreover, the Corruption Prevention Department of the Independent Commission Against Corruption would, after the passage of certain new legislation, examine the working procedures of the relevant government departments.
The Administrations responses to paragraph 18 of the joint submission
28. In response to Mrs Miriam LAUs enquiry, Assistant Director/Legal and Management of the BD advised that the Administration was discussing with the industry on the issue of guidelines, in the form of practice notes, for the implementation of the Bill, such as guidelines on the application of the three Codes of Practice listed at paragraph 2(2) of Schedule 2. As discussions still continued, it would take time for the Administration to finalize the guidelines.
29. After discussions, the Chairman concluded that the Bills Committee would decide later whether it was necessary for the Administration to submit the finalized guidelines to the Bills Committee before the passage of the Bill.
II. Date of Next Meeting
30. The next meeting would be held on Thursday, 21 November 1996 at 8:30 am in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building.
III. Close of Meeting
31. The meeting ended at 5:45 pm.
8 January 1997
* other commitments
Last Updated on 1 September 1997