PLC Paper No. CB(2) 272
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration and cleared
with the Chairman)
Ref : CB2/PL/PS/1

LegCo Panel on Public Service

Minutes of meeting held on Monday, 24 February 1997 at 10:45 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon IP Kwok-him(Chairman)
    Hon LEE Kai-ming (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP

Members absent :

    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon Allen LEE Peng-fei, CBE, JP
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin

Public Officers attending :

For All Items
Secretary for the Civil Service

For Item III
Ms Sandra LEE
Deputy Secretary (Civil Service)1
Ms Bernadette LINN
Principal Assistant Secretary (Civil Service)

For Item IV
Ms Sandra LEE
Deputy Secretary (Civil Service)1
Miss Angela LUK
Principal Assistant Secretary (Civil Service)

For Item V
Deputy Secretary (Civil Service)2

For Item VI
Deputy Secretary (Civil Service)2
Mrs Philomena LEUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary (Civil Service)

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Sharon TONG
Chief Assistant Secretary (2)1

Staff in attendance :

Mr Paul WOO
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)5

I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting held on 18 December 1996 (LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1239/96-97)

The minutes of meeting held on 18 December 1996 were confirmed.

II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion

2. The next meeting would be held on Monday, 24 March 1997 at 10:45 am to discuss the following items:

  1. Overseas medical treatment

  2. Transition of the civil service

(Post-meeting note : The time for the next meeting was advanced to 10:30 am.)

III. Matter arising

Staff consultation on issues arising from the Court of Appeal judgment on various measures to implement the localization policy in the civil service

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1269/96-97(01))

3. Deputy Secretary (Civil Service)1 (DS(CS)1) highlighted the measures proposed by the Government to give effect to the Court of Appeal judgment on the Association of Expatriate Civil Servants court case as detailed in LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1269/96-97(01). DS(CS)1 informed members that the package of the Government’s proposals had been presented to the Staff Side at the Senior Civil Service Council meeting on 21 February 1997 for consultation, with a view to implementing the proposals at the earliest instance. She added that additional funding estimated at some $8 million for two years would be sought from the Finance Committee when the Administration was ready to finalize the proposal on redress for demotees for implementation.

4. Members expressed that, in view of the increasing use of Chinese, it was reasonable to specify a Chinese language requirement for officers serving on local agreement terms on a need basis and those officers who wished to further transfer to local permanent and pensionable (P&P) terms. DS(CS)1 said that the Administration proposed to lift the temporary suspension imposed on 31 October 1995 on transfer of officers on local agreement terms to local P&P terms. According to legal advice, the 84 transferees who transferred to local agreement terms before that date, together with the 77 local agreement officers who applied to transfer before the same date, should be allowed to apply for transfer to local P&P terms under the criteria for transfer prevailing before the temporary suspension. The Administration would rationalize the existing criteria and mechanism for application to all other agreement officers serving on local terms who wished to transfer to local P&P terms. These rationalized arrangements would feature a Chinese language requirement. DS(CS)1 said that with effect from 1 August 1995, a requirement had been introduced for all new recruits on local P&P terms to be proficient in Chinese language, in addition to English. This requirement was subject to very few exceptions, although the level of proficiency required might vary among different civil service grades. She added that the Administration was actively encouraging civil servants to improve their language proficiency. Relevant courses were being organized by the Civil Service Training Division for that purpose.

5. In reply to Mr Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung’s questions, DS(CS)1 advised that there were about 400 officers being employed on overseas agreement terms (excluding those who were in the Judiciary or the Police Force). These officers had to become permanent residents of Hong Kong and transfer to local terms before they were eligible for applying for transfer to local P&P terms. With regard to the lifting of promotion restriction on the transferees, DS(CS)1 said that the Administration proposed to reconvene those promotion boards where the results had not been announced by 22 November 1996 to consider the claims of these transferees. As regards the demotees, their previous service at their original rank would be taken into account in future promotion exercises, along with other relevant factors such as conduct and performance. DS(CS)1 supplemented that back-pay of personal salaries plus increments would be made for demotees who had left the service up to the time they left. There were no plans for the Government to reinstate these officers automatically.

6. Mrs Elizabeth WONG enquired if the proposed introduction of a Chinese language requirement for officers on P&P terms should apply to organizations subvented by the Government. DS(CS)1 said that subvented organizations enjoyed a high degree of autonomy in formulating their appointment policies for their staff, subject to certain guiding principles on pay and conditions of service. The Government would not normally intervene in such a way as to affect the effective and efficient operation of the organizations. DS(CS)1 undertook to provide a more detailed reply in writing.


IV. Follow-up on regulations on the appointment, removal and discipline of civil servants after 1997

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1269/96-97(02))

7. DS(CS)1 briefed members on the gists of the proposals introduced in the paper.

8. Some members expressed that, as contrary to the Government’s proposal, enactment of public service legislation was preferable to execution orders made by the Chief Executive (CE) under Article 48(4) of the Basic Law to replace the present legal authorities for the appointment, removal and discipline of public servants provided under the Letters Patent (LP) and Colonial Regulations (CRs). The former option would provide an opportunity for a more open and democratic consultation by the public on the issue. Some members pointed out that public service legislation existed in many other jurisdictions. In response, DS(CS)1 said that the Administration was of the view that it was important to have minimum changes to the present system in order to preserve continuity as regards the management of the public service after the transfer of sovereignty. Legal advice was that an Executive Order made by the CE under Article 48(4) of the Basic Law would be an appropriate instrument to replace the source of authorities in the LP and CRs. The Administration was prepared to pursue this option and to consult CE (Designate) on the proposal. DS(CS)1 further advised that transparency of the present system was achieved through making the rules and procedures and the relevant Civil Service Regulations readily accessible to all members of the civil service. As to channel of appeal, the Administration would further examine the option to replace the present right of appeals to the Governor under CR 68 by a similar right of appeal to the CE. DS(CS)1 added that the proposal to establish a Review Board under the umbrella of the Public Service Commission had a drawback in that some officers, principally police officers, would not have access to this mechanism because they were outside the ambit of the Public Service Commission. The alternative of establishing a separate body to advise CE on appeal cases would be explored. It was hoped that the final option would ultimately cover all civil servants and be accepted by the staff side.

9. As regards staff consultation, DS(CS)1 informed members that the Senior Civil Service Council would discuss the Government’s proposals at its next meeting. She agreed to report on any progress to the Panel.


V. Monitoring mechanism over the repayment of housing loan

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1269/96-97(03))

10. In response to members’ queries on the monitoring mechanism for the Government Housing Loan Scheme and action taken on default cases, Deputy Secretary (Civil Service)2 (DS(CS)2) made the following comments :

  1. A total of 2,173 officers had joined the Housing Loan Scheme since its establishment in 1981. Over the past five years, nine cases of default in repayment of outstanding loan in time had been detected. The situation of breach of terms and conditions were not serious.

  2. Action against the officers concerned in respect of the breaches included financial penalty, full repayment of any outstanding amount with interest, disqualification from all other forms of housing benefits, and disciplinary or legal proceedings as appropriate. It would take a longer time for a default case to be concluded if legal action was taken or where the officer had absconded. In such cases, the property would be seized and sold. In some existing cases, action had already been taken to have the officers concerned declared bankrupt and their properties seized.

  3. Prior to 1990, an officer was required to notify the Government of any change to the title deed of the property within 14 days of the change. The Scheme had been reviewed in 1990 and 1995 respectively. As a result of the former review, officers who joined the Scheme on or after 1 October 1990 were required to draw up a second legal charge on the property for the benefit of the Government. Properties acquired under the Scheme could not be sold without the prior approval of the Government. The requirement of a second legal charge now covered about 90% of the cases. An additional control was introduced in December 1995 which required the deposit of documents showing ownership of the property if the property was in places where execution of a legal charge in favour of the Government was not possible. If officers were to change properties, the rules effective at the time would apply. In addition, loans were secured against the officer’s earned pension. In cases where an officer had left without trace, his pension would be forfeited. Other safeguards included spot checks on the properties carried out by the Treasury.

  4. There was a time limit of 10 years for entitlements under the Scheme. The Scheme was closed to officers appointed to the civil service on or after 1 October 1990 and those who had already joined the other home purchase schemes. The number of officers on the Housing Loan Scheme was therefore falling.

11. The Administration took note of Mr Ronald ARCULLI’s suggestion that civil servants should be required to report on the current status of the property acquired under the Scheme on an annual basis.

VI. Allowances for overtime work

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1269/96-97(04))

12. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong commented that the disparity between the eligibility rules for overtime allowance as applied to civilian officers and disciplined services staff was unfair. He said that the criteria should be pegged at the same salary level in absolute terms, irrespective of whether the officer was in a civilian rank or a disciplined service. DS(CS)2 replied that the reason for the difference was related to the very different nature of the duties performed by the officers concerned. The Review Committee on Disciplined Services Pay and Conditions of Service had accepted that a Disciplined Services Overtime Allowance should be paid to recompense disciplined services officers for working over their conditioned hours, taking into consideration the disciplined services pay scales already took into account the fact that disciplined services officers performed normally longer work hours than their civilian counterparts. DS(CS)2 said that one of the general principles governing the payment of overtime allowances was that overtime work should normally be recompensed by time-off in lieu. However, by virtue of the varied nature of different jobs in the civil service, this principle was more difficult to be applied in the various disciplined services than in the non-disciplined services. DS(CS)2 further advised that for civilian grade officers in ranks whose scale maxima were on or below Point 33 of the Master Pay Scale and who were not eligible for the standard overtime allowance, an honorarium was payable to compensate them for periods of prolonged overtime work. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong suggested that the entitlement for overtime allowance in respect of civilian and disciplined services officers should be reviewed to achieve greater fairness.

13. The Chairman enquired which departments had the highest overtime allowance payments. DS(CS)2 replied that for departments such as the Post Office and the Police, demand and payment for overtime work tended to be cyclical. He agreed to provide more detailed information after the meeting. DS(CS)2 added that for 1996, the total amount of overtime payments was about $1.2 billion, which was about 2.6% of the total annual payroll.


VII. Transition of the civil service

14. Secretary for the Civil Service informed members that CE (Designate) had formally announced in the previous week the appointment of the principal officers who would be serving in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government after the handover of sovereignty. Assistance would continue to be provided to the CE (Designate)’s Office. As at 21 February 1997, a total of 28 civil servants had been seconded to the CE (Designate)’s Office, including five directorate officers.

VIII. Close of meeting

15. The meeting ended at 12:40 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
23 July 1997

Last Updated on 21 August 1998