LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1553/95-96

Ref : CB2/H/5

Legislative Council House Committee
(1995/96 Session)

Minutes of 30th meeting held in the LegCo Chamber
of the Legislative Council Building
on Friday, 7 June 1996 at 3:50 p.m.

Members present :

    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Allen LEE, CBE, JP
    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP
    Hon SZETO Wah
    Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
    Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, OBE, JP
    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
    Dr Hon HUANG Chen-ya, MBE
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    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
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
    Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHAN Kam-lam
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
    Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    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 Margaret NG
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling
Members absent :
    Hon Martin LEE, QC, JP
    Dr Hon David K P LI, OBE, LLD (Cantab), JP
    Hon NGAI Shiu-kit, OBE, JP
    Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
    Hon CHIM Pui-chung
    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
    Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
    Hon LAU Chin-shek
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon MOK Ying-fan
    Hon SIN Chung-kai
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing
Staff in attendance : ASG2 (Clerk to the House Committee)














(1) Confirmation of the minutes of the last meeting held on 31.5.96

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1460/95-96)

The minutes were confirmed.

(2) Matters arising

(a) Report on Chairman's meeting with the Chief Secretary

(i) Replies to LegCo questions

The Chairman said that he had conveyed to the Acting Chief Secretary members’ dissatisfaction over some of the oral and written replies recently given by Policy Secretaries. He had advised the Acting Chief Secretary that examples of such replies would be provided to the Administration.

The Chairman said that the Subcommittee on Procedural Matters had also discussed the subject of unsatisfactory replies to LegCo oral questions with the President at its recent meeting. The President had noted members’ concerns and would exercise his discretion to allow Members to raise supplementary questions if they claimed that their questions had not been answered.

Miss Emily LAU said that the duration of the Question Time at the sitting on 5.6.96 had lasted almost two hours, as against the existing arrangement of limiting the Question Time to about one hour. Miss LAU added that although she was unhappy with the quality of some of the replies given by Policy Secretaries, she was equally concerned about the situation of Members routinely claiming that their questions had not been answered.

Miss Margaret NG agreed that the duration of Question Time should normally be limited to about one hour, but there should be flexibility in situations where warranted. She felt that the main problem lay in the unsatisfactory replies provided by Policy Secretaries. Other members also pointed out that some Policy Secretaries failed to give direct replies to simple and concise questions, and some provided the same answers regardless of how questions were put to them.

The Chairman concluded the discussion as follows:

- upon receipt of examples of unsatisfactory replies to LegCo questions from Members, he would pursue the matter further with the Chief Secretary;


- the subject would be discussed by the Subcommittee on Procedural Matters; and


- Members who received unsatisfactory replies could consider taking up the matter through other avenues e.g. drawing the matter to the attention of the media, or raising the matter for debate in Council.

(ii) Priority of Bills Committees on the waiting list

The Chairman said that the Subcommittee on Procedural Matters had endorsed the arrangement adopted by the House Committee at the last meeting, i.e. in acceding to the request of the Administration to give priority to a Government Bill on the waiting list, the order of the Bills Committees on Members’ bills should not be affected as a result. Similarly, should a Member’s bill be dealt with ahead of other bills, the order of Government bills should not be altered. The decision of whether a bill was urgent rested with the House Committee.

(b) Non-Chinese ethnic minorities

The Chairman said that he had just received a reply from the Minister of State on the subject of non-Chinese ethnic minorities. He briefly summarized the reply as follows :

- The British Government had never relied upon the ethnic minorities being able to acquire Chinese citizenship;

- the ethnic minorities, their children and grandchildren would be eligible for British nationality should they become stateless; and

- setting down in advance a specific set of circumstances which would qualify the minorities for admission to the UK would not best serve their interests. Ministers of the day would not interpret Britain’s commitment narrowly.

The Chairman considered the reply too vague and failed to address the concern of the ethnic minorities.

(Post-meeting note : The reply was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1575/95-96 dated 12.6.96.)

Miss Emily LAU shared the Chairman’s view and suggested that the House Committee should take a more proactive approach to pursue the matter. Having regard to Labour Party’s indication to support the granting of British citizenship to the ethnic minorities, she suggested that the Governor’s assistance be sought in urging the British Government to facilitate a Private Member’s bill to grant British citizenship to the ethnic minorities. Members agreed.


(c) Debate on Hong Kong

The Chairman said that according to information provided by LegCo London Office, the Labour Party would sponsor a motion debate on Hong Kong. He would let members have more information when available.

(d) Import and Export (Amendment) Bill 1996

Control of Chemicals (Amendment) Bill 1996

Reserved Commodities (Amendment) Bill 1996

Trade Descriptions (Amendment) Bill 1996

Toys and Children’s Products Safety (Amendment) Bill 1996

Consumer Goods Safety (Amendment) Bill 1996

Mr James TO Kun-sun said that he had no further queries on the Bills. Members agreed to support the Bills.

(e) Waste Disposal (Charges for Disposal of Chemical Waste) (Amendment) Regulation 1996

The Chairman said that the Regulation was considered by the House Committee on 10.5.96. Members present had agreed to support the subsidiary legislation.

Mr James TIEN apologised for not raising the matter earlier and explained that at the meeting of the Panel on Environmental Affairs on 15.4.96, the Administration had agreed to discuss with the Federation of Hong Kong Industries the proposed 35% increase on charges for disposal of chemical waste. The Administration, however, did not meet the Federation until 29.5.96 when the latter was told that the Regulation had already been endorsed by the Executive Council. The Federation found the situation unsatisfactory. He had therefore moved a motion at the LegCo sitting on 5.6.96 to extend the scrutiny period of the Regulation to 26.6.96. He suggested and members agreed to set up a Subcommittee to study the Regulation. The following members agreed to join : Miss Christine LOH Kung-wai, Mr James TIEN Pei-chun, Mr IP Kwok-him and Dr John TSE Wing-ling.

Members noted that the deadline for giving notice to amend the Regulation was 18.6.96.

(3) Legal Adviser's report on the subsidiary legislation tabled in the Legislative Council on 5.6.96 (gazetted on 31.5.96)

(LegCo Paper No. LS 161/95-96)

The Legal Adviser introduced the report. Members noted that 12 items of the subsidiary legislation involved fee increases.

Mr Howard YOUNG said that the hotel industry had expressed concern about the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation (Fees) (Amendment) Regulation 1996. He suggested and members agreed to set up a Subcommittee. The following members agreed to join : Mrs Selina CHOW, Mr Howard YOUNG and Mr CHAN Wing-chan.

Deputy Secretary General advised that the deadline for giving notice to extend the scrutiny period from 3.7.96 to 10.7.96 was 28.6.96, and that for giving notice of amendment, if any, was 3.7.96.

The Chairman drew members’ attention to item 3 which proposed considerable increase in the fees payable by an authorized insurer. Mr Ronald ARCULLI advised members that the industry had been consulted and did not raise objection to the proposed increase.

Members agreed to support the remaining items of the subsidiary legislation.

(4) Position report on Bills Committees and Subcommittees

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1474/95-96)

Members noted the report and agreed that the two vacant slots would be allocated to the Bills Committee on Electricity (Amendment) Bill 1996 and the Bills Committee on Housing (Amendment) Bill 1996 & Housing (Amendment) (No 2) Bill 1996.

(5) Further report by the Legal Adviser on outstanding bill

Inland Revenue (Amendment) (No 3) Bill 1996

(LegCo Paper No. LS 164/95-96)

The Legal Adviser said that the report followed up on a late submission from the Law Society of Hong Kong. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Society of Accountants had also written to the Administration on some technical issues.

Mr Eric LI Ka-cheung supplemented that apart from the Hong Kong Society of Accountants, there could be submissions on the Bill from a number of professional bodies. Although these professional bodies supported the Bill in principle, they were concerned that the Bill, as drafted, had failed to reflect the original policy objective. Mr LI pointed out that the technical and drafting issues could be resolved among the Administration and the professional bodies. He suggested and members agreed to defer a decision on the Bill.

(6) Legal Adviser's report on bills referred to the House Committee under Standing Order 42(3A)

(a) Banking (Amendment) Bill 1996

(LegCo Paper No. LS 162/95-96)

Referring members to the paper, the Legal Adviser said that the Bill had wide implications as it introduced regulatory measures in respect of the issue of multi-purpose stored value cards. Members of the Panel on Financial Affairs who were briefed on the Bill at their meeting on 6.5.96 had questioned the desirability of introducing the Bill at this stage. He suggested and members agreed to set up a Bills Committee. The following members agreed to join : Mr Ronald ARCULLI, Dr HUANG Chen-ya and Mr Paul CHENG Ming-fun.

(b) Aviation Security Bill

(LegCo Paper No. LS 163/95-96)

The Legal Adviser introduced the paper. As the Legal Service Division was still seeking comments from the Administration on certain drafting points, the Chairman suggested and members agreed to defer a decision on the Bill.

(c) New Territories Land Exchange Entitlements (Redemption) Bill

(LegCo Paper No. LS 160/95-96)

As the Bill involved policy changes, the Legal Adviser recommended the setting up of a Bills Committee. Members agreed. The following members agreed to join : Mr Ronald ARCULLI, Mr Zachary WONG Wai-yin, Dr Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung, Miss Margaret NG and Mrs Elizabeth WONG.

As the Bill had not been discussed by the Panel on Planning, Lands and Works, the Chairman suggested that the chairman of the Panel consider whether the policy aspect of the Bill should be discussed by the Panel, pending activation of the Bills Committee.


(7) Advance information on motion debates for the LegCo sitting on 26.6.96

(a) Motion debate on "Review of Employees Retraining Scheme"

(b) Motion debate on "Implementation of 'one country two systems'"

The Chairman advised that the deadlines for giving notice of, and amendments to, the above motions were 7.6.96 and 18.6.96 respectively.

(8) Reports by Panels/Bills Committees/Subcommittees

(a) Report by the Bills Committee on the Costs in Criminal Cases Bill

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1435/95-96)

Miss Margaret NG reported on behalf of the chairman of the Bills Committee that the Bills Committee had agreed to accept the modified proposal made by the Administration regarding the wasted costs provisions and not to move amendments to delete the provisions as originally intended. The Bills Committee recommended that the Bill should have its Second Reading debate resumed at the LegCo sitting on 26.6.96. Members agreed.

(b) Report by the Bills Committee on the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill 1996 and Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 1996

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1484/95-96)

Referring members to the report, Mr Fred LI Wah-ming, chairman of the Bills Committee, said that one of the purposes of the Bills was to extend to child witnesses who gave evidence in respect of an offence of incest the same kind of protection available to child witnesses giving evidence in other types of sexual abuse case.

Supplementing, the Legal Adviser said that a provision in clause 5 of the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill 1996 (the 1996 Bill) would provide remedy for an omission in the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill 1995 (the 1995 Bill). The 1995 Bill introduced special procedures for vulnerable witnesses to give evidence in some types of criminal proceedings including “offences of sexual abuse” which were defined in the Bill by referring to a part of the Crimes Ordinance. While most of the offences commonly recognized were contained in one part of the Crimes Ordinance, the offence of incest was in a totally separate part of the Ordinance. The lack of cross referencing was noticed neither by the Administration nor the Legal Service Division in the scrutiny of the Bill. He would like to take the opportunity to correct an impression that it was the Bills Committee that was at fault. In his view, this sort of cross referencing omission was the type of matter that the Legal Service Division, as a professional service to Members, should have looked at with a view to advising the Bills Committee. He pointed out that the omission was not significant at the time because it was well known then that the Bill was not going to be in operation until this year and the 1996 Bill, when enacted, would have plugged the loophole. But unfortunately, it was wrongly assumed by the Administration in a recent court case that the 1996 Bill had already been passed. The Legal Adviser apologized on behalf of the Legal Service Division for the lapse and said that the information provided was intended to put the matter in the proper perspective for the information of members.

Miss Margaret NG made the following points :

(i) legal practitioners had complained to the Administration over a long period of time about the way of drafting by making reference to certain parts of an Ordinance, which could create loopholes as in the case quoted;

(ii) legal practitioners were concerned that more and more legislation did not come into operation on the same day as it was enacted, and about the cumbersome process involved in checking the date of operation of a piece of legislation. Despite the legal practitioners’ request, the Administration had yet to come up with a simplified system to improve the situation;

(iii) in the recent court case, there appeared to be a lack of communication between the Law Drafting Division and the Prosecutions Division of the Legal Department. At present, there was a lack of effective means for legal practitioners and the public to check the up-to-date status of law. Legal practitioners had been urging the Administration to computerize the information to facilitate access by legal practitioners and the public.

Members agreed to support the resumption of the Second Reading debate of the Bill at the LegCo sitting on 26.6.96.

(c) Report by the Bills Committee on the Dutiable Commodities (Amendment) Bill 1996

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1554/95-96)

Referring members to the report, Mr Ronald ARCULLI, chairman of the Bills Committee, said that some members of the Bills Committee were concerned about clauses 9 and 11 of the Bill i.e. removal of taxis from the definition of “public transport” which would result in taxis being liable to detention and forfeiture. Mr ARCULLI added that Mrs Miriam LAU would move an amendment to delete the clauses. Subject to the Committee Stage amendments to be moved by the Administration and Mrs LAU, the Bills Committee recommended that the Bill should have its Second Reading debate resumed at the LegCo sitting on 26.6.96. Members agreed.

(d) Report by the Subcommittee on Review of Allowances for Members of the Legislative Council

(LegCo Paper No. AS 239/95-96)

Mr Ronald ARCULLI, chairman of the Subcommittee, explained the deliberations and recommendations of the Subcommittee. In response to members, Mr ARCULLI made the following points :

(i) taking into account the actual requirements of Members, it was proposed that the winding up allowance should comprise two components : a fixed amount for office expenses, and a separate amount for severance payment with no pre-set ceiling;

(ii) a Member was eligible for the winding up allowance if he/she had to cease office for reasons beyond his/her control. However, a Member who was removed from LegCo for criminal reasons or who had to cease office for reasons he/she should be held responsible e.g. bankruptcy, he/she would not be eligible for the winding up allowance as public money was involved; and

(iii) the amount of compensation claimable as a result of premature termination of tenancy agreement should be for the period up to the end of the agreement or the normal four-year term, whichever was the shorter.

Members endorsed the paper.

(9) Any Other Business

Public Bus Services (Amendment) Bill 1996

The Chairman said that Mr LAU Chin-shek, Member-in-charge of the Bill, had advised him that he intended to have the Second Reading debate of the Bill resumed at the LegCo sitting on 26.6.96. In fact, Mr LAU had given resumption notice to the Secretariat on that day.

Mr Zachary WONG Wai-yin, chairman of the Bills Committee on the Bill, said that prior to activation of the Bills Committee, the Panel on Transport had discussed the Bill in detail and had also taken note of the views expressed by the Administration and representatives of the bus companies concerned. At its first and only meeting held on 7.5.96, the Bills Committee had decided to request the Research and Library Services Division to conduct a study on overseas monitoring mechanisms of public bus companies. The report was expected to be ready in mid-July. Mr LAU had already advised members of the Bills Committee that he might proceed with resumption of Second Reading debate of the Bill without waiting for the report.

While Mrs Miriam LAU respected that it was Mr LAU’s prerogative to decide when to resume the Second Reading debate of the Bill, she expressed disappointment over his decision. She failed to see the urgency for the Bill to have its Second Reading debate resumed in the current LegCo session. Even if the Bill was passed in this session, the new provisions would have no real effect until early next year which was the normal time for the bus companies to submit their fare increase applications. Hence, it would be more appropriate for the Bill to go through its remaining stages early next session, after the Bills Committee had an opportunity to consider the research study.

Mr Bruce LIU Sing-lee said that since there was no urgency in passing the Bill, and that the outcome of the study would facilitate members’ consideration of the Bill, members of his party agreed that it would be better for a decision on the Bill to be taken early next session, say sometime in November. If the Bill would have its Second Reading debate resumed on 26.6.96 as proposed by Mr LAU, he would move an amendment to the Bill. Mr LIU noted that the deadline for giving notice of amendment was 13.6.96.

In response to Mrs Selina CHOW, the Chairman agreed that both he and Mr Zachary WONG would reflect members’ views to Mr LAU who was not at the meeting, and ask Mr LAU to re-consider his decision.

The Chairman pointed out that the Second Reading debate of a bill could be resumed on notice by a Member-in-charge of a bill, as long as the provisions of the Standing Orders had been complied with. Hence, if Mr LAU remained of the view that his Bill should go for resumption of Second Reading debate on 26.6.96, the Bills Committee set up to study the Bill would have to be dissolved. As there were already 20 active Bills Committees/Subcommittees, as against the original quota of 16, members agreed to the Chairman’s suggestion that the vacant slot would not be allocated to the next Bills Committee on the waiting list in the meantime.

In response to Miss Emily LAU, the Chairman said that members had previously agreed that one slot should be designated specifically for the study of subsidiary legislation under the quota of 16 Bills Committees and Subcommittees. As the study of subsidiary legislation required to be completed within a statutory time limit, it was possible that there would be more than one subcommittee in action at any one time. Miss LAU was concerned about the implications of the workload on the Secretariat and suggested the matter be discussed by The Legislative Council Commission.


The meeting ended at 5:10 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat

12 June 1996

Last Updated on 26 August 1999