PLC Paper No. CB(1)555
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/BC/7/96/2
Bills Committee on Railways Bill
Minutes of meeting held
on Friday, 4 April 1997, at 8:30 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Hon CHAN Kam-lam (Chairman)
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, OBE, JP
Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip
Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Members absent :
Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, OBE, FEng, JP
Public officers attending :
- Mr Paul LEUNG, JP
- Acting Secretary for Transport
- Mrs Agnes Allcock
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport
- Ms Linda SO
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport
- Mr Francis NG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Special Duties)
- Mr C K MAK
- Government Engineer/Railway Development
- Mr Roger Harding
- Government Land Agent
- Miss Sherman CHAN
- Acting Senior Assistant Law Draftsman
- Mrs Hedy CHU
- Assistant Secretary for Transport
Clerk in attendance:
- Miss Odelia LEUNG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1
Staff in attendance :
- Ms Bernice WONG
- Assistant Legal Adviser 1
- Mr Matthew LOO
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1)4 (Atg)
I Matters arising from previous meeting
(Paper No. CB(1) 1171/96-97(01) - concerns raised by members at the meeting on 19 March 1997
Paper No. CB(1) 1171/96-97(02) - response from the administration to Paper CB(1)1171/96-97(01)
Paper No. CB(1) 1171/96-97(03) - flow charts on objection mechanism under the Town Planning Ordinance and the Bill prepared by the Assistant Legal Adviser)
As regards a statutory time limit for handling objections, the Deputy Secretary for Transport (DS for T) advised that since this would have implications on other legislation, the Transport Branch had to consult other policy branches which took time. The Administration would arrive at a decision by end of the month.
At the Chairmans invitation, the Assistant Legal Adviser 1 (ALA1) briefed members on the flow chart on the objection mechanism under the Town Planning Ordinance, Cap. 131 (TPO). In essence, the Town Planning Board (TPB) was established under TPO to handle objections to draft plans. Its members comprising both official and unofficial members were appointed by the Governor. Its functions included hearing and considering objections to draft plans and proposing amendments to draft plans to address objections if deemed necessary. Differing from TBO, the Bill made no provision for conducting hearings for objections and all objections to railway schemes would be handled by the Administration.
Some members considered it anomalous to have two different objection mechanisms for town planning and planning of railways. Given the proposals in the Town Planning White Bill (TPWB) to enhance public participation and transparency in handling objections, they were of the view that the same approach should apply to the Bill. In response, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Special Duties) (PAS for PEL) advised that the Administration was conscious of the need for speedy handling of objections. There existed various channels for interested parties to express their views. If a further layer of hearings was introduced, the time for resolving objections would inevitably increase. It was therefore important to strike a balance between individual interest and public interest. Some members disagreed with the Administrations view and opined that the process would be expedited following imposition of a statutory time for handling objections. A member said that conducting hearings for objections was very common in many overseas countries. To facilitate comparison of different objection mechanisms, ALA1 would provide a flow chart on the objection mechanism under TPWB for members reference.
(Post meeting note : The flow chart on objection mechanism under TPWB had been circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1240/96-97.)
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan suggested that the period referred to in column 4 of Part II of the Schedule for making claims for compensation be extended from one to three years. In response, the Government Land Agent advised that it was rare to have claims out of time and as a matter practice, the Administration would settle compensation matters as soon as possible. Furthermore, the Lands Tribunal was normally lenient in considering applications for claims out of time irrespective of the reasons for the delay. Notwithstanding this, he undertook to consider the members suggestion.
II Clause-by-clause examination of the Bill
(From paragraphy 11 of Part I of the Schedule onwards)
Members continued examining the Bill clause-by-clause.
Part I of the Schedule
Section 11 Apportionment of compensation
Section 12 Date of valuation and interest
Members had no comment on these sections.
Section 13 No double compensation
In response to a member, PAS for PEL affirmed that compensation agreed by settlement normally exceeded the amount assessed by the Lands Tribunal.
Section 14 Government may undertake work
Members had no comment on this section.
Part II of the Schedule
Members had no comment on this Part.
A member reiterated his concern over the right of affected persons to object to land resumption referred to in section 8 of Part I of the Schedule. In response, the Assistant Secretary for Transport advised that this would depend on who initiated the resumption. If the resumption was initiated by the Administration, this would be regarded as an amendment to the railway scheme and had to be re-gazetted; affected parties could raise objections. However, if the land was resumed on the application of the person under clause 28, the re-gazettal procedures would not be necessary. As to whether the Administration would resort to other ordinances such as the Crown Land Resumption Ordinance (CLRO), Cap. 124 to expedite land resumption for railway projects, the Acting Senior Assistant Law Draftsman advised that clause 43 of the Bill had addressed this; the clause provided inter alia that CLRO would not apply to resumption of any land ordered under the Bill. She further pointed out that section 8 only aimed at preventing double compensation being paid to affected parties for resuming the same piece of land, albeit for different reasons.
Objection mechanism proposed by Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
10. At the Chairmans invitation, Hon Albert HO Chun-yan briefed members on his revised proposal for the objection mechanism. In essence, he accepted that objections could be heard by administrative means to allow flexibility and avoid possible disputes over procedural matters arising from a statutory hearing. However, hearings should be conducted by independent persons who would make recommendations on objections to the Secretary for Transport (S for T) who in turn would submit unresolved cases to the Governor-in-Council for a final decision. This arrangement was similar to that adopted by TPB except that hearings could be conducted by several subgroups in parallel. He emphasized that he had revised his proposal in view of the urgency for enactment of the Bill for building new railway projects. S for T should review this mechanism when TPWB became into law. He stressed that any objection mechanism which was more conservative than the existing one under TPO would not be accepted. He might propose amendments to the Bill should his revised proposal be rejected.
11. DS for T welcomed Mr HOs non-insistence on statutory hearings. He commented that since the mechanism proposed in the Bill was modelled on the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance (Roads Ordinance), Cap.370, any changes had to be applied not just to railway schemes but to other schemes proceeded under different legislation which had enshrined a similar objection mechanism. He reiterated that the Administration had been trying its best to settle all objections in a fair manner. He urged members to accept the proposed mechanism in the Bill, and undertook to review this arrangement after the enactment of TPWB.
12. A member opined that considerable objections might be lodged against the Western Corridor Railway (WCR) project and any proposal about hearings might cause delay. DS for T echoed the members concern and sought clarification on the estimated time required should Mr HOs revised proposal be accepted. Mr HO disagreed with the view that there would be many objections to major infrastructural projects as shown in the Route 3 (Country Park) project. Whilst he agreed that additional resources would be needed, these would be worth spending to allow objectors a chance to be heard. The time required for conducting hearings for objections would depend on the amount of resources injected. Some members supported Mr HOs proposal and opined that hearings would not delay the construction of a railway scheme as the Administration had agreed to impose a time limit for handling objections.
13. In response to a member, Mr HO clarified that under his revised proposal, a hearing panel would make recommendations to S for T and the final decision would still rest with the Governor-in-Council. S for T was not obliged to accept the panels recommendations but would have to explain the reasons for this. Mr HO appreciated some members concerns over different standards adopted by different sub-groups but considered that subjectivity was inevitable in any cases. Since the recommendations would be submitted to S for T, he would have an overall picture and could make adjustments where necessary. As a matter of fact, TPWB also proposed conduct of hearings for objections by groups. A member echoed this view and suggested that a subgroup might hear objections relating to a specific lot to minimize assessment by different standards. In response to the Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport, Mr HO clarified that hearings would be conducted at objectors request and would not be restricted to certain types of cases.
14. DS for T pointed out that comparing with the Route 3 (Country Park) project which involved 471 lots, the WCR project would affect more than 1,200 lots and he envisaged a large number of objections, in particular against graveyards clearance or relocation. He also shared some members concerns that it would be very difficult for S for T to synchronize different standards adopted by different subgroups in considering objections. Nevertheless, he undertook to consider Mr HOs suggestion but added that his proposal would have a bearing on imposition of a statutory time for resolving objections.
III Discussion on Committee stage amendments
15. SALD (Atg) briefed members on the proposed Committee stage amendments (CSAs) at the Chairman invitation. Members had no comments on the CSAs.
16. As the Administration indicated that it needed time to discuss with relevant branches on a statutory time limit for resolving objections and on Mr HOs proposal, members agreed to postpone the next meeting from 10 April 1997 to 2 May 1997 at 8:30 a.m. The Chairman would make a verbal report at the House Committee meeting on 4 April 1997 on the reasons for scheduling a meeting four weeks later.
17. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 10:05 a.m.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
26 November 1997
Last Updated on 7 December 1997