LegCo Paper No.CB(2) 481/96-97
(The minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/PS/1

LegCo Panel on Public Service

Minutes of meeting held on Monday, 28 October 1996 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 CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP
Members Absent :
    Hon Allen LEE Peng-fei, CBE, JP *
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP *
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan*
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok*
Public Officers Attending:
    Mr W K LAM, JP
    Secretary for the Civil Service
    Ms Sandra LEE
    Deputy Secretary (Civil Service) 1
    Deputy Secretary (Civil Service) 2
    Deputy Political Adviser (Personnel)
    Mrs Philomena LEUNG
    Principal Assistant Secretary (Civil Service)
    Mrs Kathryn WONG
    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 Previous Meetings

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 213/96-97)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 225/96-97)

1. The minutes of the meetings held on 2 October 1996 and 7 October 1996 respectively were confirmed.

II. Date of Next Meeting and Items for Discussion

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 206/96-97(01))

The next meeting would be held on Monday, 25 November 1996 at 10:45 am to discuss the following items :
  1. Expenditure on Civil Service Pay and Benefits
  2. Regulations on the Appointment, Removal and Discipline of Civil Servants after 1997
  3. Transition of the Civil Service

III. Terms and Conditions of Service for New Recruits

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 206/96-97(02))

3. Ms Sandra LEE advised members that the proposed "Civil Service Terms of Appointment and Conditions of Service" (Common Terms) which had been drawn up to apply to new recruits were contained in a consultative documents issued in 1993. The staff and relevant bodies including the Legislative Council had been extensively consulted after the document was issued. The full contents of the Common Terms proposals together with the views collected in the consultation exercise were subsequently provided to the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG) in 1994. Ms LEE clarified that there was as yet no firm date for the Common Terms to come into effect. She particularly pointed out that, under the proposals, serving officers would be given an option to choose between the new package or their existing terms and conditions of service.

4. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong queried the reasons for the prolonged delay in implementing the Common Terms, which had been widely accepted and supported. He said that owing to the delay, a large number of officers might have been appointed during the past three years on terms and conditions which they would not have been entitled had the Common Terms been implemented earlier. Members were concerned about whether the delay had caused significant financial losses and a drop in the quality of new recruits, for instance staff being recruited without the proficiency in Chinese language as set out in the Common Terms. Ms LEE responded that the Administration was still awaiting a reply from the Chinese side as to when discussion was to resume at the JLG on the implementation of the Common Terms. She undertook to consult her colleagues in the Constitutional Affairs Branch on the status of the issue at the JLG and revert back to the Panel in writing. Ms LEE added that while the Common Terms had not been implemented in its entirety, some proposals such as the abolition of the Overseas Education Allowance for new recruits had been introduced on an advanced schedule. The question of whether the existing terms and conditions were at a higher level than the Common Terms did not arise as terms and conditions should be viewed in the perspective of a whole package instead of individual items. The Common Terms were intended to unify and streamline present terms and conditions of service at levels that commensurate with the whole civil service structure, and to achieve savings in the long term through improved management and efficiency. She assured members that the quality of the civil service had not been sacrificed. Concerning Chinese language proficiency, Ms LEE said that the compulsory requirement was now set at grade E or above of the HKCEE for grades requiring HKCEE or above entry qualification. But there were jobs for which a lower standard would suffice. She undertook to provide more detailed information on this subject matter after the meeting.

5. Mr Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung referred to the definition of a ‘local’ as stated in the Common Terms and enquired whether such definition as provided under the Immigration Ordinance would be changed in alignment with the Basic Law. Ms Sandra LEE replied that it could not be said with certainty whether an amendment would be required. There was no suggestion that the present definition did not match the Basic Law interpretation. She said that the meaning of a ‘local’ should in the end be determined on the basis of the prevailing legislation.


6. Ms Emily LAU enquired if the court case being pursued by expatriate civil servants with the Government would have any bearing on the implementation of the Common Terms. Ms Sandra LEE stated that depending on the court’s ruling, the Government might need to make some adaptations as far as the terms and conditions for serving officers were concerned. Whatever the outcome, the implementation of the Common Terms, which would be applied solely on the new recruits, should not be affected. She stated that the case was being heard and a decision by the Court of Appeal was expected by the end of the year.

7. In response to another question by Ms Emily LAU on leave travel allowance, Ms Sandra LEE explained that the proposal in the Common Terms was in accordance with the long-standing entitlement of officers at directorate levels to a leave passage allowance at rates based on the return air fares between Hong Kong and London. The current leave passage allowance was originally provided to expatriate civil servants and was later extended to directorate-level officers. The proposed leave travel allowance would be fully accountable.

8. Members enquired if there was any deadline for the Sino-British sides to come to an agreement on the Common Terms. Ms Sandra LEE replied in the negative and confirmed that there was no intention to shelve the Common Terms proposals even if a decision could not be reached by 30 June 1997. Members urged the Administration to make known to the Chinese side the urgency of the issue and to speed up deliberations by the JLG without further delay.


IV. Update on Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service (HMOCS)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 206/96-97(03))

9. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr M J C WATERS provided an update as at 14 October 1996 as regards the exercise of an option to retire by HMOCS officers. There were currently a total of 540 HMOCS officers. 250 of them had opted to continue in service after 30 June 1997. 236 officers had chosen to retire before 1 July 1997 and the remaining ones had yet to opt. The final deadline for the exercise of the option was 30 December 1996. Mr WATERS expected that there would be a slight majority of the officers remaining in service. Of those retiring officers, a large proportion had already left service and their positions had been filled by local promotees. He said that no succession problems were envisaged.

10. In reply to the questions by Mr CHAN Wing-chan and Mrs Elizabeth WONG, Mr WATERS explained that an officer who retired under a compensation scheme was eligible for pension payments immediately on retirement. However if the officer retired early, he would not benefit from any annual pension increases adjusted in accordance with the Consumer Price Index factor until he reached the age of 55. There would also be no back payment of the increased amount retrospective from the date of the officer’s retirement to the day he became 55. The UK Government would be paying for the compensation provided under the HMOCS Compensation Scheme to both retiring officers and those who opted to stay in service, subject to a maximum of GBP 140,000, while the Hong Kong Government was responsible for the normal pension payments in respect of the service of these officers with the Hong Kong Government. All HMOCS officers serving in Hong Kong were permanent and pensionable officers appointed on expatriate terms of service, but their status was different from that of expatriate civil servants. There were far more expatriate officers than there were HMOCS officers. At present, there were some 900 expatriate officers on agreement terms. In addition there were about 100 on permanent and pensionable terms who were not members of HMOCS.

11. Mrs Elizabeth WONG expressed that as the number of expatriate officers far exceeded that of HMOCS officers and in order to get a fuller picture of the progress of localisation, a similar analysis as regards the wishes of expatriate officers to remain in service after 1997 would be useful. Ms Sandra LEE replied that inasmuch as the situation with respect to HMOCS officers was clearer, it was difficult to predict with accuracy the case for expatriate officers since there was no requirement on them to declare their decisions whether to leave before or stay on after the change of sovereignty. In the absence of a notice to resign or retire, it was assumed that expatriate officers would continue in service. Ms LEE undertook to provide information on the number of officers appointed on overseas terms, inclusive of those on permanent and pensionable terms or agreement terms, their age profiles and the number of officers who had tendered notice to resign or retire. The position in respect of HMOCS officers would also be updated in due course. Mr Michael HO Mun-ka asked that the statistics should be broken down into officers at directorate, medium and lower levels.

12. Mr Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung pointed out that whereas HMOCS officers were entitled to pension payments immediately upon retirement, the same right did not apply to their counterparts in the civil service. Ms Sandra LEE advised that the entitlement of HMOCS officers arose from a constitutional responsibility of the UK Government to compensate officers for their loss of HMOCS status as a result of a constitutional change, where it was provided under UK legislation that the officers could choose to retire under the HMOCS Compensation Scheme, which was an approved compensation scheme for the purposes of Hong Kong pensions legislation. The case was different for non-HMOCS officers where, depending on whether the officer was on the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) or New Pension Scheme (NPS), an officer would only be able to receive pension payments on the date he attained the retirement age. An exceptional situation was that in the case of an officer on the OPS who was approved to take early retirement at the age of 45 on compassionate grounds, the retired officer would be eligible for immediate pension payments. Moreover, any officer who retired under a compensation scheme would be eligible for immediate pension payments. Mr Anthony CHEUNG maintained that the existing policy governing the way pension payments were payable to HMOCS and non-HMOCS officers was unfair and would create divisions within the civil service.Adm

13. Ms Emily LAU opined that it was a double benefit for HMOCS officers to receive compensation from the UK Government when their HMOCS status ceased on the one hand, and pension payments from the Hong Kong Government on the other. Other civil servants who were not HMOCS members, albeit with the same length of service, were not entitled to the same benefits. Mr WATERS and Ms Sandra LEE reiterated that the UK compensation arose from the constitutional position as regards HMOCS Schemes applicable to British dependent territories. HMOCS officers who opted to remain in service would receive pension payments only at the time when they eventually retired. Although these officers would remain in service they could not, of course, remain as members of HMOCS after 30 June 1997.

14. In response to Mr Michael HO Mun-ka’s questions, Ms Sandra LEE said that ex-HMOCS officers who had chosen to remain in service after 30 June 1997 would continue to serve on the same terms and conditions of service. Those who did not exercise their options by 30 December 1996 would be expected to continue to serve beyond 1 July 1997. If these officers wanted to leave service after the option deadline on 30 December 1996, they could resign but they would not be entitled to the compensation under the HMOCS Scheme as retiring officers.

15. Ms Emily LAU referred to the question she had raised at the Legislative Council Sitting on 23 October 1996 concerning two Police officers who submitted applications to retire with less than 12 months’ service between their last promotion and their retirement, thus contravening the requirement of the relevant Civil Service Regulations (CSRs). She enquired of the measures the Administration had taken to avoid the recurrence of similar cases. Mr W K LAM replied that all promotion boards had been advised to comply with the provision in the CSRs which stated that officers who had less than 12 months’ active service to give following the effective date of promotion were not normally considered for promotion. He added that before a promotion board was convened, departmental managements would write to all officers falling within the promotion zone to seek their confirmation on whether they would stay in service for at least 12 months after the promotion. Mr LAM confirmed that three cases had come to light in which the officers concerned were HMOCS officers who would retire with less than 12 months’ service after their last promotion. The situations came about because of the fact that, under the HMOCS Compensation Scheme applied to Hong Kong, eligible officers had the right to retire between 1 July 1996 and 30 June 1997 by giving six months’ advance notice. Mr LAM said that as an administrative measure to prevent similar events from happening, future promotion boards for HMOCS officers would be held after 30 December 1996 when all the officers should have decided whether or not they would retire before 1 July 1997.

16. Mr CHAN Wing-chan said that, with a view to achieving stability of the civil service, consideration should be given to reward long-service civil servants with enhanced pension benefits. Ms Sandra LEE remarked that the calculation of pension entitlements had to comply with the law applied to the civil service. She noted Mr CHAN’s suggestion.

V. Informal Get-togethers Between Senior Civil Servants and Chinese Government Officials

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 206/96-97(04))

17. Mr D W PESCOD informed members that 12 informal get-togethers had been held between senior Hong Kong civil servants and Chinese Government Officials between November 1995 and May 1996. They took the form of briefings by the Hong Kong participants on the work of the respective branches/departments followed by lunch. The second round of get-togethers was scheduled to take place between October 1996 and end of December 1996. There would be 11 get-togethers in the form of tea sessions taken part by Hong Kong senior civil servants at deputy secretary and deputy director level or above. The focus of the second round of briefings would also be on work-related issues. Whether or not there would be subsequent rounds of get-togethers would depend on the progress and developments of the second round.

18. Mrs Elizabeth WONG expressed that the briefings should be held in a more formal manner with proper records of the meetings being taken. Mr PESCOD replied that the intention of the get-togethers was to enhance communication between the two sides in an informal and relaxed atmosphere and the exchanges were proved to be useful. Note taking was considered not appropriate on these occasions. In reply to Mr LEE Kai-ming’s enquiry, Mr PESCOD said that issues relating to retirements and conditions of service had not been discussed.

VI. Transition of the Civil Service

19. Referring to Ms Emily LAU’s and Mr CHAN Wing-chan’s questions, Mr W K LAM said that the Administration was prepared to co-operate with the Chief Executive designate of the future Hong Kong Special Administration Region on important fronts. Details had yet to be worked out in consultation with the latter, pending the result of the selection exercise. He added that the stand of the Administration of not providing assistance to the Provisional Legislature was clear, as had been stated publicly by the Administration on past occasions.

VII. Close of Meeting

20. The meeting ended at 12:35 pm.

LegCo Secretariat
16 November 1996
* -- Other Commitments

Last Updated on 21 August 1998