LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 903/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref :CB2/PS/9

LegCo Panel on Home Affairs
Subcommittee on Review of Advisory and Statutory Bodies

Minutes of Meeting
held on Wednesday, 18 December 1996 at 8:30 am
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :
    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai (Chairman)
    Hon LEE Wing-tat (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Members Absent :
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Public Officers Attending :
    Item I

    Mr Carlson CHAN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs

    Item II

    Mr Carlson CHAN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
    Mr KWAN Wing-wah
    Deputy Secretary for Economic Services
    Ms Maria KWAN
    Deputy Secretary for Economic Services
    Mr Richard YUEN
    Deputy Secretary for Economic Services
    Mr Richard YIP
    Deputy Director of Agriculture and Fisheries
    Mr Thomas YIU
    Deputy Director of Civil Aviation
    (Administration & Airport Management)
    Mr K W HO
    Assistant Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services
    (Gas and General Legislation)
    Mr S Y TSUI
    Deputy Director of Marine
Clerk in Attendance :
    Mrs Anna LO
    Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
Staff in Attendance :
    Mr Raymond LAM
    Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6

1. Members noted that Hon LO Suk-ching had resigned from the Subcommittee with effect from 3 December 1996.

I. Matters arising

(Paper No. CB(2) 706/96-97(01))

2. Members noted a letter dated 13 December 1996 from the Administration (Appendix A to the minutes) reiterating the basis on which members of advisory bodies were appointed and a nomination mechanism was adopted.

3. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs (PAS(HA)) presented the Administration's paper setting out in general terms the relevant factors taken into account by advisory bodies in considering whether to hold open meetings, and its position on the matter. He stressed that while the Administration would continue to encourage advisory bodies to adopt transparency measures, opening up meetings was only one of the many transparency measures. Open meetings should not be compulsory for all advisory bodies. The Chairman reiterated that while the Subcommittee did not consider holding open meetings to be mandatory, it considered that, as a general rule, meetings of advisory bodies should be open to the public, while exceptionally discussions on confidential matters could be closed.

II. Review of advisory and statutory bodies relating to economic services

(Paper No. CB(2) 706/96-97 (02))

4. Representative of the Economic Services Branch (ESB) highlighted the salient points of their paper and informed members that out of 30 advisory bodies relating to economic services, 17 held open meetings while most of the other bodies made their papers available to the public. In response to members, he explained that meetings to which observers were welcome differed from those open to the public in that the former required prior request for observing a meeting. He assured that no observer would be refused for the reason that arrangement could not be made.

5. A member suggested the Administration to provide the Terms of Reference (TOR) of advisory bodies relating to economic services. PAS(HA) responded that such information was contained in the Civil and Miscellaneous List (the List), a copy of which had been provided to the LegCo Secretariat (kept by the Clerk to the Subcommittee).

6. As regards the Chairman's question on whether more advisory bodies relating to economic services had plans to hold open meetings in the coming year, representative of ESB stated that the practice for advisory bodies to hold open meetings had only been introduced in recent years. It would take time for these bodies to adapt to such a practice. The Administration would continue to encourage advisory bodies to take steps to increase their transparency.

Appointment of LegCo Members from functional constituencies to advisory bodies

7. The Chairman suggested the Administration to consider appointing LegCo Members from the relevant functional constituencies to appropriate advisory bodies. A member noted that LegCo Members were appointed to Fisheries Development Loan Fund Advisory Committee and questioned why the Advisory Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries (ACAF) did not comprise representatives from the relevant LegCo functional constituencies. He remarked that the Administration's policy on appointment of LegCo Members to advisory bodies was inconsistent. PAS(HA) reiterated that the roles of advisory bodies differed from those of the three tiers of representative government. He had reservation on making it a standard practice of appointing members of the LegCo functional constituencies to sit on the relevant adviosry bodies. Members of advisory bodies were appointed on an ad personam basis, taking into account an individual's experience, expertise, ability, integrity and the needs of the advisory bodies. In this connection, LegCo Members were appointed to advisory bodies in their personal capacity. In some exceptional cases where there were organizations with a clear, direct and pertinent interest, the Administration might invite these organizations to nominate or elect their own representatives to sit on these advisory bodies, having regard to their nature and TOR. A member commented that under this principle, representatives of Heung Yee Kuk should not have been appointed to ACAF, and the Agricultural Products Scholarship Fund Advisory Committee.

As regards whether additional members could be appointed to ACAF at this time, representative of ESB stated that appointment of new members were usually made upon the expiry of the term (usually two or three years) of serving members. The Chairman suggested that members' views on the issue should be incorporated in the final report of the Subcommittee.

8. In response to a member's question on the channels for the public to know about the open meetings, representatives of ESB stated that there was no particular publicity on the open meetings of advisory bodies but, according to past experience, interested individuals and organizations were aware of these meetings. The ESB was looking into the possibility of creating a home-page which would be an additional channel for the public to know about advisory bodies under its policy purview.Clerk

Endangered Species Advisory Committee

9. In response to members, the Deputy Director of Agriculture and Fisheries (DDAF) explained that meetings of the Endangered Species Advisory Committee (ESAC) were not open for the reason that its discussions usually involved the trading of endangered species, especially those used for preparing Chinese medicine, which was commercially sensitive. They explained that Hon MOK Ying-fan was appointed to ESAC on the basis of his personal experience and expertise rather than his capacity as a member of the three tiers of representative government. In response to a member, DDAF agreed to suggest ESAC to open its meetings generally and restricting closed discussions on confidential matters only.Admin.

Hong Kong Port Development Board

10. Mr LEE Wing-tat commented that the Hong Kong Port Development Board (HKPDB) mainly comprised representatives of major business conglomerates. There was no representative of the midstream operations industry or the general public. He considered that HKPDB should have across-the-board representation of various related industries and organizations. The 1994 dispute over gate charges revealed such a weakness in membership composition of HKPDB. Representative of ESB responded that the Administration recognised the importance of midstream operations in the container trade. There were representatives of midstream operations in the Subcommittees of HKPDB. HKPDB's main role was to provide advice on future port development. It did not involve making policy decisions, which were made by the ESB, taking into consideration the advice of HKPDB and information provided by other relevant policy branches. Where important policy decisions were involved, the public would be consulted through the usual channels. Matters discussed by HKPDB were very technical and its members need to have professional knowledge and experience in the relevant field. The annual report of HKPDB was available for public inspection through Internet. Mr LEE disagreed with the Administration's explanation and questioned whether discussions of HKPDB were only confined to future port development. He added that discussions of the Town Planning Board were also very technical, but representatives of the general public were appointed to the Board. He reiterated that HKPDB should have across-the-board representation of various related industries and organizations. Representative of ESB agreed to consider Mr LEE's suggestion.Admin.

Radio Spectrum Advisory Committee

11. In response to a member, representatives of ESB explained that the Radio Spectrum Advisory Committee predominantly comprised representatives from the telecommunications field because it involved the allocation of radio spectrum. There was also a representative of the Consumer Council in this Committee.

IV. Dates of subsequent meetings

12. Members agreed to re-schedule the next meeting on 6 January 1997 to 7 January 1997 at 4:30 pm. The following meeting would be held at 10:45 am on 28 January 1997 to examine advisory boards relating to home affairs, followed by a meeting at 2:30 pm on 18 February 1997 to review advisory bodies relating to planning, environment, lands and security. It was agreed that detailed information of members of Area Committees and District Boards would not be required in the Administration's paper on advisory bodies relating to home affairs. Members hoped that a Subcommittee report would be prepared in late February 1997 for consideration by the Home Affairs Panel.

13. The meeting ended at 9:45 am.

LegCo Secretariat
9 January 1997

Last Updated on 19 August 1998