PLC Paper No. CB(1)138
(These minutes have been seen by the
Administration and cleared by the Chairman)
Ref: CB1/BC/22/96

Bills Committee on
Public Holiday (Special Holidays 1997) Bill

Minutes of the Meeting
held on Friday, 23 May 1997,
at 8:35 am in Conference Room B
of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon CHAN Kam-lam (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
    Hon IP Kwok-him

Members absent :

    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong (Chairman)
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP

Public officers attending :

Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
Mr TSANG Kin-woo
Assistant Commissioner for Labour (Labour Relations)

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)

Staff in attendance :

Mr Jimmy MA
Legal Adviser
Mr CHEUK Wing-chuen
Senior Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)2

I. Chairman of the meeting

Mr CHAN Kam-lam, the Deputy Chairman, convened the meeting in the absence of the Chairman, Dr Philip WONG Yu-hong, who was engaged in other commitments.

II. Comments from organisations consulted

2. The Committee noted that the LegCo Secretariat had written to the following 10 organisations to invite their views on the Bill, and that their responses had been circulated to members before the meeting:

    Federation of Hong Kong Industries
    The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce
    Employers' Federation of Hong Kong
    The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions
    Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
    Hong Kong & Kowloon Trades Union Council
    The Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions
    The Hong Kong Association of Banks
    Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union
    Judiciary Administrator

3. Members noted that the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and the Hong Kong-Kowloon Trades Union Council indicated support of the Bill while other organisations made no comments.

III. Meeting with the Administration

Consultation with the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group

4. Members noted from the Administration's reply [LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1627/96-97(01)] that the question of public holidays had been discussed in the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG) but the Chinese side had not been consulted on the Bill. In this connection, the Deputy Chairman asked about the contents and outcome of discussion in JLG on the issue of public holidays. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (PAS/EM) advised that the contents of JLG discussion were confidential and could not be divulged to the Committee. On the timing of discussion by JLG, PAS/EM advised that discussion of public holidays probably took place around 1995. As regards whether the Chinese side had agreed to the submission of the Bill to LegCo, PAS/EM undertook to provide a written reply to the Committee as soon as possible.

Legislative arrangements for the special holidays

5. As the issue of public holidays had been raised in the JLG as early as 1995, Mr IP Kwok-him queried the Administration for not introducing the Bill to the LegCo last year. In response, PAS/EM advised that the decision to designate 1 and 2 July and 1 October as statutory holidays was made only in October 1996 although these were announced general holidays in June 1996. As the subject involved rather complex legal issues, the Administration had taken some time to deliberate on the Bill before it was introduced to LegCo on 23 April 1997.

6. Mr IP Kwok-him asked about the reasons for not including in the Bill 1 October 1997, the National Day of the People's Republic of China, which would also be a special holiday as 1 and 2 July 1997. In response, PAS/EM advised that 1 October 1997 had been included in the list of 1997 general holidays for public information. There was no urgency to legislate 1 October as statutory holiday because the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) would have ample time to deal with the issue. Mr IP said that the piece-meal approach was unsatisfactory, and employers and employees should be given advance notice of the special holidays for the whole calendar year.

7. Noting that the Administration had taken quite a long time to deliberate on the subject of special holidays after members of the Labour Advisory Board (LAB) raised the issue last year, the Deputy Chairman asked about the practice and procedures for the legislation of special holidays. In response, PAS/EM explained that the subject involved a spectrum of complicated legal issues and required careful deliberations. On the procedural arrangements, PAS/EM said it was normal practice to announce the list of general holidays for the coming year about six months ahead, in order to provide sufficient advance notice to the public. For those holidays already provided under the Holidays Ordinance (Cap. 149) and the Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57), the Administration would only need to specify the dates of such holidays and no new legislation would be required. However, if changes were to be made to the list of statutory holidays, it would be necessary to provide legal backing to such changes by way of gazette notice or new legislation as appropriate.

8. Responding to the Deputy Chairman, PAS/EM confirmed that in the present case, it was the Preparatory Committee rather than the Hong Kong Government which made the formal announcement of designating 1 and 2 July 1997 as statutory holidays. In view of the Administration's reply, the Deputy Chairman remarked that if the policy decision was not made by the Hong Kong Government, it might be inappropriate for the Hong Kong Government to implement such decisions on behalf of the HKSAR Government.

9. Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo said that since the Bill was rather straightforward and that the Hong Kong Association of Banks, the Judiciary and other trade unions had indicated no objection to the Bill, he would suggest the Committee conclude examination of the Bill at this meeting so that the slot would be made available to other urgent Bills awaiting LegCo scrutiny. He said that Members of the Democratic Party would support early enactment of the Bill to provide certainty on the two special holidays in question.

10. In response to Mr Andrew CHENG, the Deputy Chairman pointed out that some other members of the Committee had strong reservations about the legislative arrangements of the Bill, particularly on the question as to whether the Chinese side had given consent to the Bill. As some members were of the view that the Hong Kong Government should not make duplicated efforts to legislate 1 and 2 July 1997 given the work done by the Preparatory Committee so far on the subject, the Deputy Chairman considered it appropriate to await the Administration's reply on the issue before deciding on the date of reporting to the House Committee. At members' request, PAS/EM undertook to furnish the information with regard to JLG discussion as soon as possible.

Date of next meeting

11. After discussion, members agreed that subject to the receipt of the Administration's reply by 27 May 1997 and any further comments that the Chairman and members might have on the Bill, a verbal report would be made to the House Committee on 30 May 1997. The Committee would decide whether further meetings need be held after considering the Administration's reply.

    (Post-meeting note: The Committee agreed after receipt of the Administration's reply [LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1711/96-97] that no further meeting need be held, and the Chairman directed that a report should be submitted to the House Committee on 6 June 1997.)

12. The meeting ended at 9:10 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
8 August 1997

Last Updated on 30 November 1998