Record of Meeting held on 27 October 1995 at 2:30 p.m.
in the Legislative Council Chamber


    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum (Chairman)
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG CHIEN Chi-lien, CBE, ISO, JP (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, OBE, JP
    Hon Martin LEE Chu-ming, QC, JP
    Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, OBE, LLD, JP
    Hon NGAI Shiu-kit, OBE, JP
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon Edward LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon CHIM Pui-chung
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
    Dr Hon HUANG Chen-ya, MBE
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
    Hon James TO Kun-sun
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
    Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHAN Kam-lam
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
    Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon LAU Chin-shek
    Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
    Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon LO Suk-ching
    Hon MOK Ying-fan
    Hon Margaret NG
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Hon SIN Chung-kai
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling


    Hon Allen LEE Peng-fei, CBE, JP
    Hon SZETO Wah
    Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
    Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, OBE, JP
    Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, OBE, JP
    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

In Attendance for specific items:

Mr Y C CHENG Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare
Mrs Patricia CHU Assistant Director of Social Welfare
Miss Yvonne CHOI Commissioner for Official Languages (Designate)
Mrs Margaret CHAN Principal Executive Officer of Civil Service Branch
Mrs Sophie LAM Assistant Director of Information Technology Services
Mr Albert WONG Chief Training Officer of Civil Service Training Centre
Mr David WEBB Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury
Mr Anthony WILSON Chief Architect of Architectural Services Department
Mr SO Tat-foon Chief Telecommunications Engineer of Office of the Telecommunications Authority
Miss Annette LEE Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
Mr S T KWAN Assistant Director of Education (Schools Division)
Mr Anthony K H TONG Assistant Director of Education (Allocation and Support Division)
Dr Y M LEUNG Assistant Director of Education (Curriculum Development Institute)
Mr C P TANG Principal Curriculum Planning Officer of Education Department
Miss Mary CHOW Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
Mr Raymond WONG Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
Mr Gregory LEUNG, JP Director of Government Supplies

In Attendance:

Mr Alan LAI, JP Secretary for the Treasury (Acting)
Mrs Carrie LAM Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (Acting)
Mrs Lilian WONG Principal Executive Officer (LegCo Unit), Finance Branch
Miss Pauline NG Clerk to the Finance Committee
Mrs Constance LI Chief Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)
Mr Andy LAU Senior Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)

Item No. 1 - FCR(95-96)58

Subhead 175 Child care centre fee assistance

In response to Members’ questions, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare clarified that the estimated increase of fee assistance applications was derived on the basis that about 380 cases rejected in the last academic year would become eligible for assistance in the 1995-96 academic year due to the increase in the general maximum fee assistance level. The increase in expenditure in respect of day nurseries was mainly due to:-

  1. about $7.8 million for implementation of the harmonised pay scales for kindergarten teachers and child care workers;
  2. about $5.2 million to take account of inflation for the weighted average fee level; and
  3. about $1 million for the estimated increase in the number of applications for fee assistance.

2. The Committee approved this item.

Item No. 2 - FCR(95-96)59

Subhead 700 General other non-recurrent

3. While Members supported Government’s policy to promote wider use of Chinese throughout the civil service, clarification was sought from the Administration on points related to the cost-effectiveness of the proposal.

4. On the training estimates for 1996-97 to 1998-99, the Commissioner for Official Languages (Designate) (COL/Des) confirmed that adequate training would be provided to general grades staff, the secretarial grades in particular, who would be involved in Chinese computer input or word processing duties. The training costs had taken account of inflation, and it was the intention of the Civil Service Training Centre to contract out such training to large computer training agencies at about $900 per person, which was reasonable when compared to market rate. COL/Des noted Members’ concern about the syncronizing of training with the procurement programme and confirmed that careful planning would be undertaken in ensuring that the equipment procured would be put to good use. She added that the provision of 13,000 training places over a three-year period was based on a survey of the requirements in departments and that all secretarial and executive grades staff and 30% of the clerical establishment would be trained up by 1998-99 to meet operational needs.

5. Regarding the choice of input-method software, the Information Technology Services Department (ITSD) would include in the tender specifications the requirements for compatibility with the existing Chinese software to be used in government departments. Since computers usually had a usage life span of about five years, ITSD would consider supplementing or upgrading the facilities as and when appropriate. On the cost estimates, the Administration confirmed that computer package including hardware and software would cost about $24,000 each; a detailed cost breakdown would be provided to Members for information.


6. In response to a Member’s concern about the diminishing importance of the use of English in the civil service, COL/Des assured Members that both Chinese and English would be the official languages in the civil service. The current proposal was to meet the anticipated increase in demands for Chinese word processing facilities, following the implementation of proactive measures to improve the proficiency of civil servants in Chinese as recommended by the Working Group on the Use of Chinese in the Civil Service. Responding to a Member’s query, the Principal Executive Officer of Civil Service Branch said that Chinese word-processing duties would be included in the Guide to Appointment of the secretarial grades, while other general grades staff would also be given training to enable them to perform such duties as necessary. The staff concerned and their associations had responded positively to these proposals.

7. The Administration also confirmed that this item was to be considered separately and independently of the establishment proposals on the new Official Languages Agency and the creation of a supernumerary Principal Executive Officer (D1) post scheduled for discussion by the Establishment Subcommittee on 2 November, since there was no causal relationship between the two proposals.

8. The Committee approved the item.

Item No. 3 - FCR(95-96)60

New Subhead “Queensway Government Offices PABX System Replacement”

9. In response to Members’ questions, the Administration provided the following information:

  1. The increase in capacity from 3,108 to 4,000 extensions would enable some officers who were sharing an extension with others to be provided with their own extension. It did not mean that there would be a corresponding increase in staff.
  2. The more expensive digital phones would be used for connection with computers.
  3. The Voice Messaging System would be made available to user departments according to needs, and user requirements such as remote retrieval or other features would be included in the tender specifications if considered necessary.
  4. Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRS) were not within this subhead. These systems, if necessary, would be procured under a separate exercise to meet the specific needs of various departments. The Administration would ensure compatibilty of the IVRS with the PABX.
  5. Costs would be recovered from those user departments which were financially autonomous.

10. Some Members queried the rationale for paying $3.5 million for the services of the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) and asked how the charges compared to market rates. They pointed out that if the Government continued to use the service of OFTA without any regard to the rates charged, it would defeat the whole purpose of turning OFTA into a trading fund. They also questioned the need for charging $1 million for the commissioning and acceptance test, which should come as part of the installation package.

11. In reply, the Chief Telecommunications Engineer/OFTA explained that their costs, which were estimated on the basis of a total of 340 man-days required for designing and installing the system, had worked out to be roughly 15% of the total project cost. Although there was no concrete information on how private companies would have charged for such services, the charges of OFTA proposed were in line with market rates. He also confirmed that the testing of the system was an essential part of the installation work and the charges were calculated according to the staff costs involved.

12. The Deputy Secretary for the Treasury added that the planning of the proposed project had been undertaken by OFTA prior to its becoming a trading fund from 1 June 1995. Operating now as a trading fund department, OFTA had to finance its expenditure with income from the services it rendered, including the services for the proposed project. The Administration had always been aware of the need to ensure that any trading fund schemes would operate on commercial principles and, in terms of quality of service and the rates of charges, were competitive with the private sector. Details of these were set out in the business and corporate plans of individual trading funds which were considered by Members in support of their establishment. She said that the subject of trading funds could be brought to the relevant Panels for further discussion in due course. In the meantime, she asked Members to give support to the proposed project since substantial planning work had been undertaken. A list of other outstanding government projects assigned to OFTA prior to its changeover to a trading fund would also be provided to Members for information.


13. On the question of splitting the proposal or deferring the item until more information had been provided, the Chairman advised that in accordance with Rule 24 of the Finance Committee Procedures, only the Financial Secretary could amend the proposal put before the Finance Committee. Unless the Financial Secretary or his representative agreed to amend or withdraw the proposal, he had to put the question as originally proposed. The Secretary for the Treasury advised Members that he would not split or defer the proposal.

14. The Committee voted on the proposal: 29 Members voted for the proposal; 5 against and 1 abstained.


Hon Martin LEE Hon NGAI Shiu-kit Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung
Hon Albert CHAN Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong Hon Michael HO
Dr Hon HUANG Chen-ya Hon Emily LAU Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming Hon James TO Kun-sun Dr Hon Samuel WONG
Hon Zachary WONG Hon Christine LOH Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon CHENG Yiu-tong Hon CHOY Kan-pui Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon LAU Chin-shek Hon LAW Chi-kwong Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon LIU Sing-lee Hon LO Suk-ching Hon MOK Ying-fan
Hon Margaret NG Hon NGAN Kam-cheun Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon TSANG Kin-shing Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling

(29 Members)


Hon CHAN Kam-lam Hon CHAN Wing-chan Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG Hon YUM Sin-ling

(5 Members)


Hon IP Kwok-him

(1 Member)

15. The proposal in FCR (95-96)60 was approved.

Item No. 4 - FCR(95-96)61

Subhead 834 Equipment for computer studies

16. In response to Members’ questions, the Assistant Director of Education (AD/ED) clarified that certain sophisticated software would be required to equip advanced-level students in the prevocational schools for tertiary education. On the possibility of centralising such specialised training in one school instead of providing the same equipment for each of the 27 schools, AD/ED advised that this would pose practical difficulties and would unnecessarily reduce the number of students who might benefit from such training.

17. On the point of cost-effectiveness, AD/ED assured Members that the proposed investment in Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing equipment would be worthwhile and essential for better quality technical education. Since most of the computer software would include a self-learning component, all the 22,299 students in the prevocational schools could make use of such facilities during and after school hours. He also advised that the life span for the hardware would be about five years but software learning packages had a longer serviceable period.

18. The Committee approved the proposal.

Item No. 5 - FCR(95-96)62

Subhead 700 General other non-recurrent

19. In response to a Member’s query on the monitoring of standards of Chinese textbooks awarded under the Scheme, AD/ED said that all S1 to S5 textbooks participating in the Scheme were examined by the Textbooks Reviewing Panels of the Education Department comprising officers from the Curriculum Development Institute and practising teachers. As for S6 and S7 subjects, reviewing panels consisting of sixth form teachers and tertiary institution lecturers were hired to assess the suitability of these books. To qualify for an award, the textbook should meet an acceptable standard set by the panels.

20. As regards the effectiveness of the Incentive Award Scheme, AD/ED considered that the first three phases of the Scheme had been successful in encouraging publishers to produce good quality Chinese textbooks or reference materials in a variety of subjects to support the use of Chinese as the medium of instruction in secondary schools. A total of 82 sets of textbooks on 22 subjects had been published under the Scheme, representing about 60% of the Chinese textbooks on the market. He also pointed out that the number of schools using Chinese as the medium of instruction had increased from a few dozens in 1986 to 155 in 1995, and this had definitely reflected the success of the Scheme. AD/ED would provide a copy of the evaluation reports on the past phases of the Scheme for Members’ information.


21. Responding to a Member’s comment that some publishers had allegedly abused the Scheme and made profits from publishing low quality textbooks, AD/ED said that the level of award was fair and reasonable because it was adequate to cover only two-third of the pre-printing production costs as calculated by the Printing Department and Information Services Department. All textbooks participating in the Scheme were subject to close scrutiny of the reviewing panels. However, he noted the Member’s concern about the composition of the reviewing panels.

22. In reply to a Member’s question, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower confirmed that the Scheme also covered textbooks for the advanced level. AD/ED said that the main purpose of the fourth phase of the Scheme was to make available suitable Chinese textbooks for advanced-level studies with Chinese being used as the medium of instruction. As regards whether Chinese textbooks would be used by tertiary education institutions, AD/ED said this would have to be determined by the institutions themselves.

23. The Committee approved the item.

Item No. 6 - FCR(95-96)63

Subhead 110 Honoraria for members of committees

24. The Administration noted Members’ concern about the absence of a central policy for remunerating non-official members serving on boards and committees set up by the Government. At present, each case was considered on its merits by the policy secretary concerned.

25. The Committee approved the item.

Item No. 7 - FCR(95-96)64


26. The Committee approved the item.

27. The meeting ended at 4:45 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
16 November 1995

Last Updated on 27 November 1998