PLC Paper No. FC 160
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/F/1/2
Finance Committee of the Provisional Legislative Council
Minutes of the meeting held at the Legislative Council Chamber on Friday, 27 March 1998, at 2:30 pm
Members present :
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP (Chairman)
Hon Henry WU (Deputy Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon NG Leung-sing
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon Allen LEE, JP
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP
Hon Mrs Peggy LAM, JP
Hon NGAI Shiu-kit, JP
Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
Hon YUEN Mo
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Dr Hon Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon HUI Yin-fat, JP
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon TSANG Yok-sing
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun, JP
Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting
Hon KAN Fook-yee
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Hon LO Suk-ching
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Members absent :
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon LEUNG Chun-ying, JP
Hon MOK Ying-fan
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-Hong
Hon CHIM Pui-chung
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon LAU Wong-fat, JP
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Public officers attending :
- Mr K C KWONG, JP
- Secretary for the Treasury
- Mrs Carrie LAM, JP
- Deputy Secretary for the Treasury
- Mr K K LAM
- Principal Executive Officer (General), Finance Bureau
- Mr Kenneth MAK
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Trade and Industry (E)
- Mr Philip CHAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
- Mr P E HALLIDAY
- Assistant Commissioner of Police
- Mr Raphael CHIU
- Chief Telecommunications Engineer, Hong Kong Police Force
- Mr CHAN Wai-ki
- Chief Superintendent of Police, Hong Kong Police Force
- Mrs Grace PUN
- Assistant Director, Efficiency Unit
- Mrs Marie POON
- Business Manager, Water Supplies Department
- Mrs Jenny CHAN
- Assistant Commissioner for Labour
- Mr Matthew CHEUNG, JP
- Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Ms Michelle LI
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mr Nigel FRENCH, JP
- Secretary-General, University Grants Committee
- Miss Susanne HO
- Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mr Leo KWAN, JP
- Deputy Secretary for Economic Services
- Mr Joe WONG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services
- Mrs Amy CHAN
- Executive Director, Hong Kong Tourist Association
- Mrs Grace LEE
- Finance and Administration Director, Hong Kong Tourist Association
- Mr John DUFFUS
- Head-International Event Tourism, Hong Kong Tourist Association
- Mr Stanley YIP
- General Manager (Research and Development), Hong Kong Tourist Association
- Ms Teresa HONG
- Senior Manager (Spotlight HK Programme), Hong Kong Tourist Association
- Mr Bobby CHENG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Trade and Industry (B)
- Mr Francis HO, JP
- Director-General of Industry
- Ms Annie CHOI
- Assistant Director-General of Industry
- Mr Michael SUEN, JP
- Secretary for Constitutional Affairs
- Mr Clement MAK
- Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs
- Mr TAM Wing-pong, JP
- Deputy Secretary for Trade and Industry
- Mr H Y AU
- Chief Executive Officer of Constitutional Affairs Bureau
- Mr T P WONG
- Assistant Director of Immigration
- Mrs Philomena LEUNG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for the Civil Service
Clerk in attendance :
- Ms Pauline NG
- Assistant Secretary General 1
Staff in attendance :
- Mrs Vivian KAM
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)5
- Mr Matthew LOO
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1)7
Item No. 1 - FCR(97-98)108
HEAD 152 - GOVERNMENT SECRETARIAT : TRADE AND INDUSTRY BUREAU
Subhead 149 General departmental expenses
The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 2 - FCR(97-98)109
CAPITAL WORKS RESERVE FUND
HEAD 708 - CAPITAL SUBVENTIONS AND MAJOR SYSTEMS AND EQUIPMENT
Hong Kong Police Force
New Subhead New Radio System for Crime Wing of the Hong Kong Police Force"
2. Given that the existing radio system used jointly by the Criminal Intelligence Bureau and the Narcotics Bureau had been in use for 18 years and had limitations, members noted the need for it to be replaced by a new system. Members however sought elaboration on the details and effectiveness of the new system.
3. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Security and the Assistant Commissioner of Police (AC/P) advised that the new system would be a more reliable and penetrating system with wider radio coverage and enhanced security protection against unauthorised access. It would be hoisted on an open platform using a digital mode of transmission and trunked technology and, as opposed to the existing proprietary system, would be open and scaleable. With such improvements to the technological approach to surveillance and intelligence gathering activities, the system would have a positive effect on crime reduction.
4. Mrs Selina CHOW, Chairman of the Security Panel, stressed that when the subject was discussed by the Panel, members were particularly concerned about the need for the work of the two bureaux to be accorded enhanced security protection. The Panel was in support of the proposal.
5. Referring to a proposal put to the Committee in 1995 for replacing the radio system for the Mass Transit Railway District and Crime Surveillance Units by an analogue system, a member recalled having queried the continued use of the analogue system despite digital equipment becoming more developed, and the Force's advice at that time that only proven system and reliable equipment would be used. He asked if the Force's policy in using analogue systems had been changed, and whether the two systems would become incompatible.
6. The Chief Telecommunications Engineer, Hong Kong Police Force (CTE/HKPF) confirmed that the system referred to would be put to use in April 1998 to tie in with the opening of the new airport. He explained that an analogue system was recommended for the units concerned in 1995 as it had to be compatible with the system in use by the Mass Transit Railway Corporation. While digital technology in 1995 was not yet suitable then for application in the Force's systems, the technology had since been well developed and used by security organisations in Europe. As the system under consideration was not interdependent on the system approved in 1995, it was not necessary for the two systems which were used by different units to be compatible. He confirmed in reply to a member that as the new system under consideration would be an open system, it could be made compatible with other systems in the event of other systems switching over to a digital system.
7. Noting that the system would cost $198 million, a member enquired about the number of staff who would be using the system, and a comparison of the maintenance costs and lease line rental between the existing and the new systems.
|8. AC/P advised that the system, which would have a shelf life of about 10 to 15 years was capable of handling several thousands of mobile radios. In the present proposal, 500 handsets at a cost of $37,000 per unit were proposed for two dedicated and small units. He undertook to provide in writing the maintenance cost and the lease line rental between the existing and the new systems. In reply to a member on the need for one year to complete the tendering process, CTE/HKPF explained that as the exercise was a major one, a period of six months was required for the suppliers to tender for the exercise. Detailed discussions would then be necessary before the contract was to be awarded.
9. The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 3 - FCR(97-98)110
CAPITAL WORKS RESERVE FUND
HEAD 708 - CAPITAL SUBVENTIONS AND MAJOR SYSTEMS AND EQUIPMENT
Government Secretariat : Offices of the Chief Secretary for Administration and the Financial Secretary
New Subhead Pilot implementation of two intelligent call centres"
10. In response to members on the service to be provided through intelligent call centres in the Water Supplies Department (WSD) and the Labour Department (LD), the Assistant Director, Efficiency Unit (AD/EU) advised that for the WSD, callers would need to make only one call for the range of enquiry services provided by the department. For the LD, an increase in capacity of the new system would also enable calls to be referred to the various types of enquiry services. The cost for implementing the pilot system in WSD would be relatively higher than that in LD as the former had six information systems while the latter had only two.
11. Members were concerned with the large number of calls which requested operators' service in the LD, and with the apparently minimal improvements in service with the new system. They enquired about the reason for the slight improvements in the success rate of connection to the operators from 31% to 51%, and the average processing time from 3.5 minutes to 3.3 minutes. AD/EU pointed out that apart from the time element, the reliability of answers provided to callers was also important. Moreover, since enquiries with LD were related mostly to legislation and personal circumstances, many such enquiries would require operators' service. The Assistant Commissioner for Labour (AC/L) added that as the enquiries often entailed indepth explanations on labour legislation and detailed information on employment services, it was not possible to shorten the duration of the enquiries and hence the waiting time significantly. She estimated that by 1999, demand for operators' service would increase by 12% and general enquiries by 20%.
12. In reply to a member's enquiry about increasing the number of operators to handle enquiries, AC/L said that this would not be contemplated at the pilot project stage. She estimated that with the new system, the number of calls successfully connected to operators would increase by 23 000. The member however, pointed out that many callers who could not be connected to LD operators had turned to trade unions for assistance. Since labour legislation was very complicated, the only means of improving service in this connection would be through an increase in the number of operators for handling enquiries.
13. In relation to the subject of manpower resources, a member sought clarification on whether savings in manpower was one of the targets of the pilot project. AD/EU confirmed that this was not the intention and that the focus would be on improvement in quality of telephone enquiry service.
14. In reply to a member on the reason for including the new subhead under the Offices of the Chief Secretary for Administration and the Financial Secretary instead of the two departments concerned, AD/EU explained that the Efficiency Unit was responsible for making recommendations on improvements in efficiency in the civil service, and the pilot project would make possible an assessment on the feasibility of the new concept and provide a direction on the future development of telephone enquiry services in the civil service. The question of whether such expenses would continue to be included under a central subhead or be devolved to departmental levels had yet to be decided.
15. The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 4 - FCR(97-98)111
HEAD 190 - UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMITTEE
Subhead 492 Grants to UGC-funded institutions
16. Professor NG Ching-fai, Dr TSO WONG Man-yin and Dr LAW Cheung-kwok declared an interest.
17. Commenting on the increase of 24% over the recurrent funding for the 1995/96 to 1997/98 triennium, a member pointed out that the different basis of price levels and the many variables used had made it difficult to compare costs. The Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS/E&M) explained that the 24% was only a nominal increase, and that the different basis used in the calculation was because the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) came under the aegis of the University Grants Committee (UGC) mid-way through the triennium. On the amount of allocation to the HKIEd for the previous (1995/96 to 1997/98) and coming trienniums, the Secretary-General, University Grants Committee (SG/UGC) advised that this was about $1.5 billion and $2.3 billion respectively.
18. Some members questioned the Administration's proposal to reduce student unit cost by 10% for the coming triennium and argued against any reduction in funding for research. They pointed out that these would inevitably affect students and run counter to the principle of improvement in quality of education. They enquired about the relationship between the proposed reduction and the quality assurance reviews undertaken in the past few years, and the means through which the 10% reduction in student unit cost would be achieved. A member also asked if any of the existing services or facilities would be affected because of the lack of resources, quoting recent reports on the closing down of the Medical Care Centre of the University of Hong Kong.
19. SG/UGC said in reply that UGC had undertaken a number of quality assurance reviews of the activities of tertiary institutions. These included reviews of the teaching and learning quality assurance processes of the institutions; research assessment exercises; a review of research post-graduate education; and starting shortly - management reviews of the institutions. While the allocation of resources was based primarily on assessments of the funding requirements in the tertiary institutions, regard was also given to the findings of such reviews. He clarified that the alleged reduction in research post-graduate student places was not a reduction as such, but rather a re-distribution of places and resources which would not affect the number of students. SG/UGC expressed confidence in achieving the target of a 10% reduction in student unit cost, but added that funding adjustments would be made during the course of the triennium if necessary. He also stressed that improved quality could be achieved at the same time as cost reductions, and not necessarily by increasing funding. Some members, however, were not convinced and urged UGC to conduct a review in one year's time and adjust the 10% reduction target if warranted.
20. A member noted that the 10% reduction in student unit cost was only an average figure and asked the Administration to provide a breakdown of the targeted student unit costs in different disciplines in the various institutions. He also sought clarification on other resources which were available to meet the new expenditure requirements and new developments. SG/UGC advised that funding needs for new and existing activities could be met by the re-allocation of existing resources.
21. As regards a breakdown of the student numbers and distribution of recurrent funding to individual institutions in the 1998/99 to 2000/01 triennium. It was noted that the Administration considered it inappropriate to give the figures at that stage. A member, however, pointed out that such a breakdown was provided in a similar proposal to the Finance Committee of the former Legislative Council in February 1995 (FCR(94-95)116) on funding for the 1995/96 to 1997/98 triennium. He questioned the reason for not providing the same information in the current discussion paper.
22. DS/E&M explained that only indicative data was available at that stage, and that more time was required for further discussions with institutions concerned. The Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (DS/Tsy) supplemented that the current proposal sought members' acceptance of the financial commitment on a triennium basis to facilitate planning by the institutions. When passing the Appropriation Bill for 1998-99, members had already approved the necessary expenditure for 1998-99. Expenditure for subsequent years would be approved in the context of the annual exercise on the examination of the draft Estimates of Expenditure for that financial year. She stressed that the fact that this paper did not provide detailed allocations for the respective institutions was in no way disrespect for the Council. It was simply because the purpose of the FC submission was not asking Members to approve allocations for particular institutions.
|23. The member disagreed with the Administration's explanation. He stressed that the circumstances of the two proposals made in 1995 and 1998 were identical. The 1995 proposal was in fact put before the Finance Committee in February while the current proposal was in March. The unavailability of data for the current proposal was therefore not justified. The Chairman also remarked that the funding proposal for UGC-funded institutions for the 1995/96 to 1997/98 triennium was proposed in February 1995, before the Appropriation Bill for 1995-96 was passed. The current proposal, which referred to the funding for the 1998/99 to 2000/01 triennium, was put before the Committee after the Council had already passed the Appropriation Bill for 1998-99. He therefore found the arrangement unacceptable. The Chairman also considered that if the data requested by the member could be provided in 1995, it should also be provided in the current paper. He requested and DS/E&M undertook to provide the requisite data in writing.
24. In response to a member who sought assurance on the effect of the unit cost reduction in future increases in tuition fees, DS/Tsy advised that since tuition fees were set to recover 18% of unit cost, the reduction in student unit cost would bring down the level of tuition fees in real terms.
25. Some members questioned the funding arrangement for re-appointing the Vice-chancellor of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology at a salary level higher than that of D8 as previously recommended by UGC and endorsed by FC. DS/E&M explained that the policy endorsed by Finance Committee in June 1996 was to link the salaries of the heads of the five larger UGC-funded institutions to point D8 of the Government's Directorate pay scale, but this was only to apply to new appointments and re-appointments. There was nothing to stop an institution from offering a higher salary if it was satisfied that additional pay was justified on account of a need for continuity in the administration of the institution, or in recognition of the contributions of the head concerned, and that there was sufficient funding from private donations to top up the difference. As public money was not involved, UGC would not be in a position to interfere. In response to the Chairman, SG/UGC confirmed that councils concerned would decide on the usage of donations not earmarked for particular purposes having regard to the needs of the institutions. On UGC's role in monitoring subventions to institutions, he explained that UGC examined the audited accounts of the institutions, and received annual declarations from heads of institutions which contained assurances that the institutions had utilised public funds strictly in accordance with approved Government rules and guidelines.
26. As some members maintained that the issue was linked intrinsically with subvention to the institutions and were dissatisfied with the response, the Chairman suggested that members could make their views known at the respective councils in their capacity as council members where appropriate.
27. The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 5 - FCR(97-98)112
HEAD 176 - SUBVENTIONS : MISCELLANEOUS
New Capital Account Subhead Grant to the Construction Industry Training Authority"
28. Members were generally supportive of the proposal. A member sought elaboration on the details and the cost of the additional training courses to be organised by the Construction Industry Training Authority (CITA) for construction workers.
29. DS/E&M advised that these would be new courses aimed at providing unemployed persons with some basic training in order to join particular trades in the construction industry. The 14 trades to be covered by the courses were based on an assessment of the market needs by CITA, but could be expanded if warranted. The organisation of such courses would be timely in anticipation of the upcoming and large number of housing and infrastructural development projects in Hong Kong. No information was at hand on the cost per trainee.
30. Some members expressed concern about the training of workers in particular trades. A member pointed out that 48 places for bar benders and fixers would not be adequate to meet the needs of the trade, while another member was concerned that trainees might not be able to master the safety techniques in view of the short duration of the course. The Chairman enquired if consideration had been given to alleviating the shortage of workers in particular trades especially in piling and tunnelling works, and to the introduction of a multi-skill concept to improve workers' earning capacity.
31. DS/E&M advised that the 48 training places were additional to other courses currently run by CITA for training bar benders and fixers, and assured the Committee that particular emphasis would be placed on the safety aspect. While the number of training places was under constant review and would be adjusted periodically, the Administration would also have to ensure that workers so trained would be able to find jobs. DS/E&M stressed that the Administration was aware of the need for flexibility. To this end, he was chairing a working group comprising employer/employee representatives as well as representatives from relevant organisations to ascertain the manpower needs of different trades, and to tailor programmes to match requirements in order that production lines would not be affected by the shortage of labour in particular trades; the high wastage rate of construction workers was also closely monitored. On the other hand, the shortage of workers in piling and tunnelling works was also of concern to the working group. He said that a contractor had recently advised that several hundred workers would be needed by the company in the coming years, and that the contractor had undertaken to train up workers in this respect. The working group had also taken on board the multi-skill concept and, in this connection, had asked CITA to relax admission restrictions in order that workers who wanted to attend training courses to acquire a second skill would also be accepted.
32. A member commented that the monthly allowance of $3,300 to $4,000 was insufficient incentive, and asked if other supplements would be provided to encourage participation in the training courses. DS/E&M said in reply that this was only a training allowance and was not intended to cater for daily needs; those in financial hardship should apply for social security payments.
33. Noting that CITA derived its income from a 0.25% levy collected under the Industrial Training (Construction Industry) Ordinance, a member asked if the downturn in the construction industry would affect CITA's income. In reply, DS/E&M advised that while a reserve with about $100 million was available to meet contingency requirements, consideration was being given to raising the rate of levy to 0.4% in early 1999 in order to increase income. In addition, the Administration was also considering a proposal made by the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Contractors Association for collecting levy from the industry.
34. The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 6 - FCR(97-98)113
NEW HEAD TOURISM"
New Subhead International Events Fund"
35. While members agreed with the need to revive the declining tourism industry in Hong Kong, some questioned the effectiveness of the major events in achieving the objective.
36. In response, the Executive Director, Hong Kong Tourist Association (ED/HKTA) advised that the Hong Kong Tourist Association (HKTA) also recognised the need for the events to be of world class standard in order to attract visitors from overseas. This would tie in with the slogan for promoting Hong Kong as the Events Capital of Asia, and put Hong Kong in strong competition with neighbouring cities such as Shanghai and Singapore as an international metropolitan city. She was confident in the organisation of a variety of events during different times of the years to cater for the interest of different sectors. As regards the detailed plans, ED/HKTA estimated that an average of 10 events would be supported either financially or in kind annually in the coming years, and HKTA would, in addition to organising some of the events, maintain close contact with international events organisations to promote the activities. Each event was expected to attract about 10% to 15% of audience from overseas, and the total additional 150 000 visitors would generate significant tourism receipts for Hong Kong. The first of the series of events to be financed by the Fund was expected to be announced in six months' time.
37. In addressing a member's concern for promoting visitor arrivals from the Mainland, ED/HKTA said that HKTA had been in constant contact with Mainland authorities, and that the Vice Premier had also undertaken to open up further the entry of visitors from the Mainland to Hong Kong. In addition, HKTA would expand its office which was opened in Beijing in 1997, and had plans to set up another office in Shanghai in 1999.
38. On the criteria for deciding whether an event merited financial support, ED/HKTA advised that proposals would be evaluated by a steering committee and that the number of visitors generated through the event would only be one of the considerations. Individuals and representatives from organisations in the private sector, with experience and interest in sports, arts and culture, entertainment, etc, would be invited to join the committee; and representatives from banking institutions would also be invited to advise on investments for the Fund. A member criticised the lack of information in the discussion paper in this respect. There was also no information on how the loan was to be repaid. He pointed out that if the loan could be repaid, the event should be profitable and as such should not justify the granting of the loan. It was those organisers who might run into financial difficulties that the Government should try to assist. Under such circumstances, the Administration should consider providing the financial assistance in the form of a grant, rather than a loan. Another member asked if the 5% interest could be waived.
39. In reply, the Deputy Secretary for Economic Services advised that some events would be profit-making, and the loan facility was intended for organisers who might have cash flow problems. The interest rate of 5% was considered reasonable having regard to the commercial nature of the activities. The Secretary for the Treasury also confirmed that the 5% interest rate struck a balance between the profit-making nature of the events and the risks borne by HKTA.
40. A member expressed concern about the availability of venues for staging such major events in Hong Kong. ED/HKTA advised that this would be resolved through various means. The Provisional Urban Council had just passed a motion to strengthen working relationship with the HKTA and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council; consideration was being given to locating additional temporary and permanent venues; the Economic Services Bureau was undertaking a consultant study on the need for additional convention and exhibition facilities in Hong Kong; and HKTA was finalising a report on additional venues for performances.
41. The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 7 - FCR(97-98)114
HEAD 106 - MISCELLANEOUS SERVICES
New Capital Account Subhead Applied Research Fund"
42. The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 8 - FCR(97-98)115
NEW HEAD GOVERNMENT SECRETARIAT : BEIJING OFFICE"
43. At the Chairman's invitation, the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (SCA) made the following points in response to concerns raised by members at the joint meeting of the Constitutional Affairs and the Public Service Panels on 25 March 1998:
- The ranking of the post of Director of the Beijing Office was pitched at D8 level of the directorate pay scale in recognition of the importance of the post as the principal representative of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the Mainland. The Director would provide an important bridge for liaison and communication, and enhance working relations between the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Mainland authorities. As such, the incumbent would have to be an experienced officer who would be capable of leading the office in accomplishing its objectives, and the pitching of the post at D8 level was appropriate.
- The functions of the Beijing Office would encompass a range of aspects including trade, immigration, contact with offices of non-Government-organisations in the Mainland such as those of the Hong Kong Tourist Association and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, etc. As such functions were outside the remit of the Constitutional Affairs Bureau and traversed those of many bureaux and departments, it would be logical for the Director to report to the Chief Secretary for Administration; and
- The reference, as set out in Enclosure 1 of the discussion paper, to the Beijing Office acting in consultation with the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council on certain specific issues, might be misleading. The Administration therefore decided to delete the phrase "in consultation with the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council," under item (c) of Enclosure 1 of the paper.
44. Mr IP Kwok-him expressed strong reservations at the pitching of the Director's post at D8 level. While appreciating the multifarious functions of the Beijing Office, he pointed out that duties such as that of liaison with Mainland authorities overlapped with those of the Constitutional Affairs Bureau. Having regard also to the small staffing complement of 35 in the office, he considered it appropriate for the post to be ranked at D7 level. In reply, SCA stressed that the level of responsibility of the post justified its ranking at D8 level. He further clarified that the scope of liaison responsibilities of the Beijing Office and the Constitutional Affairs Bureau was different, and that the latter's scope in this respect was relatively confined. Mr IP however maintained his objection to the proposed ranking.
45. In response to a member on whether a review would be undertaken on the functions of the Beijing Office, SCA advised that such a review would be conducted in one or two years time after its operation. At the Chairman's suggestion, SCA confirmed that the review would be conducted 18 months after the opening of the office.
46. Referring to the proposed rates of rent allowance for Hong Kong-based staff in the Beijing Office, a member commented that the rates seemed high and enquired about the rental for residential units in Beijing and the sizes concerned. SCA said in reply that detailed information was not in hand. He estimated that rental should be in the region of US$20 to $40 per square metre for offices, and HK$250 to $300 for residential units. SCA advised that to enable the Beijing Office to be set up as soon as possible, the Administration would initially rent suitable office premises in a commercial building. In the long term, the Administration would consider to construct a permanent office building for the Beijing Office. As regards remuneration for local personnel of the Beijing Office, SCA said that reference was made to information obtained from the Foreign Enterprise Service Corporation. As the Beijing Office was not a foreign enterprise, the Beijing Office was not bound to secure the service of local personnel through the Corporation. That said, the Administration would consider the desirability of securing the service of local personnel through the Corporation having regard to operational requirements.
47. The Chairman put the paper to vote. Mr IP Kwok-him stated his objection to the paper. The Committee approved the proposal.
48. The Committee was adjourned at 5:40 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
7 July 1998