LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1771/96-97
Ref : CB1/BC/22/96
Paper for the House Committee meeting on 6 June 1997 Report of the Bills Committee on Public Holiday (Special Holidays 1997) Bill
This paper reports on the deliberations of the Bills Committee to study the Public Holiday (Special Holidays 1997) Bill.
2. The Bills seeks to declare 1 and 2 July 1997 as additional public holidays for the purpose of the Holidays Ordinance (Cap. 149) and additional statutory holiday for the purposes of the Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57). These two days are the Establishment Day of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government and the day following Establishment Day.
The Bills Committee
3. At the meeting of the House Committee on 25 April 1997, Members decided that a Bills Committee should be formed to study the Bill. The membership list of the Bills Committee is at Appendix I.
4. Under the chairmanship of Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong, the Bills Committee has held two meetings with the Administration. The Committee had invited comments from employers' and employees' associations, and major sectors affected by the Bill. A list of the organisations consulted is at Appendix II. No objection has been received; the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and the Hong Kong & Kowloon Trades Union Council have indicated support of the Bill.
Deliberations of the Bills Committee
Purpose of the Bill
5. Members note that the Administration has published in June last year a list of general holidays for 1997. According to the Administration, it is normal practice to publish a list of general holidays more than one year in advance. Separate legislation is not required if there is no change to those holidays provided in the Holidays Ordinance, Cap. 149 and the Employment Ordinance, Cap. 57. Since the Preparatory Committee for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the National People's Congress (Preparatory Committee) has made clear that 1 and 2 July 1997 will be public holidays, the Administration has issued a list of general holidays of 1997 including 1 and 2 July 1997 for general information. This notwithstanding, the Administration considers it necessary to provide legal backing for the two special holidays on 1 and 2 July 1997, to put it beyond doubt that these are general holidays for the purposes of the Holidays Ordinance. This is to enable the business and banking sectors as well as schools and courts to plan their operation, and employers and employees to comply with the statutory provisions.
6. The Bills Committee considers that, if legislation is necessary for the special holidays, the Administration should have introduced the Bill last year and not at such a late stage. The Committee expresses disappointment over the Administration's failure to submit the legislation to the Legislative Council earlier. The Administration has responded that they need time to examine the legal implications before forwarding the Bill to the Council. Despite queries from members, the Administration had not been able to provide an explanation to members' satisfaction about the late introduction of the Bill.
Consultation with the Labour Advisory Board
7. The Committee has asked the Administration whether the Labour Advisory Board (LAB) had been consulted on the special holidays. In this regard, the Administration has confirmed that the issue has not been formally raised for discussion at the LAB, although some LAB members have presented their views to the Preparatory Committee some time last year about designating 1 and 2 July 1997 as special holidays.
Consultation with the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group
8. Members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) are concerned whether the legislative arrangements for public holidays beyond 30 June 1997 have been discussed by the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG). The Administration has advised in response that the subject of public holidays has been discussed in the JLG since 1993, but the question of legislation has not been discussed with the Chinese side. As regards the outcome of JLG discussion on the subject, the Administration maintains the position that the contents of JLG discussions are confidential and cannot be released to the Committee.
Views of the Bills Committee
9. The Chairman is of the view that there is no need for the Hong Kong Government (HKG) to introduce the Bill as the Provisional Legislative Council has been tasked to deal with the law on public holidays in 1997 and 1998. Considering that the Provisional Legislative Council has already passed the law in this respect, the Chairman doubts the need for resumption of Second Reading of the Bill.
10. Members of the DAB have reservations about the Bill. They are of the opinion that HKG should not decide on matters which are clearly within the responsibilities of the HKSAR Government. As the policy decision of declaring 1 and 2 July 1997 as public holidays was made by the Preparatory Committee rather than HKG, DAB members have doubts whether HKG should legislate these holidays on behalf of the HKSAR Government. They regret that HKG has not been able to reach agreement with the Chinese side on the legislative arrangements at an earlier stage.
11. Members of the Democratic Party and the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions are in support of the Bill. They consider that the Bill should be enacted as soon as possible to avoid uncertainty and to enable the employers and employees to make arrangements for these two additional holidays. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan has pointed out that, under section 39(2) of the Employment Ordinance, Cap 57, an employer who cannot grant a statutory holiday to his employee will need to grant a substituted holiday within a period of 60 days immediately preceding or next following the statutory holiday. It is therefore necessary to give advance notice to employers and employees for the necessary arrangements with regard to substituted holidays. Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo is also concerned that the courts will need to plan in advance whether hearings should be held on 1 and 2 July 1997. They are therefore in support of early enactment of the Bill.
Conclusion and Recommendations
12. The Bills Committee has not reached any consensus as to whether the Bill should be supported for resumption of Second Reading. The Committee nevertheless agrees that no further meeting need be held. After the Bills Committee has concluded deliberations, the Administration has given notice to resume Second Reading debate of the Bill at the Legislative Council on 17 June 1997.
13. Members are invited to note the deliberations and conclusion of the Bills Committee.
2 June 1997
Bills Committee on Public Holiday (Special Holidays 1997) Bill
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong (Chairman)
Hon CHAN Kam-lam (Deputy Chairman)
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Total : 6 members
Legislative Council Secretariat
6 May 1997
List of organisations consulted
1. The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce
3. The Hong Kong Association of Banks
4. Hong Kong & Kowloon Trades Union Council
5. Federation of Hong Kong Industries
6. The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions
7. Employers' Federation of Hong Kong
8. Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
9. The Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions
10. Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union
22 May 1997
Last Updated on 30 November 1998