Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2) 306

Ref : PLC/HC/4

House Committee of the Provisional Legislative Council

Minutes of the meeting held at the Legislative Council Chamber at 2:30 pm on Friday, 12 September 1997

Members present :

Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP (Chairman)
Hon IP Kwok-him (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 Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP
Hon Mrs Peggy LAM, JP
Hon Henry WU
Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Dr Hon Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon MOK Ying-fan
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
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon CHIM Pui-chung
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Hon KAN Fook-yee
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Hon LO Suk-ching
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Members absent :

Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon Allen LEE, JP
Hon NGAI Shiu-kit, JP
Hon LEUNG Chun-ying, JP
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon LAU Wong-fat, JP
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Justina LAM
Clerk to the House Committee

Staff in attendance :

Mr Ricky C C FUNG, JP
Secretary General

Mr Jimmy MA
Legal Adviser

Mr LAW Kam-sang, JP
Deputy Secretary General

Mr LEE Yu-sang
Senior Assistant Legal Adviser

Ms Pauline NG
Assistant Secretary General 1

Assistant Secretary General 3

Ms Bernice WONG
Assistant Legal Adviser 1

Mr Stephen LAM
Assistant Legal Adviser 4

Mr Arthur CHEUNG
Assistant Legal Adviser 5

Ms Kathleen LAU
Chief Public Information Officer

Mrs Percy MA
Chief Assistant Secretary (2)3

Mr LAW Wing-lok
Chief Assistant Secretary (2)5

Mrs Betty LEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary (3)1

Mrs Eleanor CHOW
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)8

I. Confirmation of the minutes of the 17th meeting held on 29 August 1997
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 234)

1.The minutes were confirmed.

II.Matters arising

Report by the Chairman on his meeting with the Chief Secretary for Administration

  1. Introduction of bills into Provisional Legislative Council

    2.The Chairman said that he had conveyed members ' request that the bills detailed in the Director of Administration ' s letter of 16 August 1997 should be introduced into the Council as soon as possible to allow more time for scrutiny. The Chief Secretary for Administration (CS) said that the Administration would try its best to introduce the bills as soon as practicable.

  2. Subsidiary legislation on Mandatory Provident Fund

    3.The Chairman said that CS had been informed of members ' request that the draft subsidiary legislation be made available to Members in batches to facilitate early scrutiny.

III. Business arising from previous Council meetings

(a) Reports on bills referred to the House Committee in accordance with Rule 54(4)

(i) Report of the Bills Committee on Legislative Council Bill

4. The Chairman suggested and members agreed to deal with this item (item V on the agenda) first. He then invited Mr Ambrose LAU, Chairman of the Bills Committee on the Legislative Council Bill, to give a verbal report on the progress of the Bills Committee.

5. Mr Ambrose LAU said that the Bills Committee had so far held 10 meetings and two more meetings had been scheduled for 15 and 16 September 1997. The Administration had earlier intended to resume the Second Reading debate on the Bill on 24 September 1997. However, in view of the complexity of the Bill and the relatively large number of Committee stage amendments (CSAs) to be moved by Members and the Administration, the Bills Committee recommended that resumption of the Second Reading debate on the Bill should take place on 27 September instead of 24 September 1997. He added that this arrangement was acceptable to the Administration but the President ' s approval would be required to defer the Council meeting scheduled for 24 September 1997 to 27 September 1997.

6. Mr LAU then highlighted the CSAs to be moved by the Administration which were known to the Bills Committee at that stage. These included -

  1. allowing ex-officio Election Committee (EC) members (i.e. members of the Provisional Legislative Council and Hong Kong delegates to the National People ' s Congress who were electors of functional constituencies (FCs)) a choice to the vote in the EC or a FC;

  2. requiring ex-officio EC members, like all other EC members, to be registered as electors of the geographical constituency first before they could exercise their right to vote in the EC election; and

  3. declaring a LegCo Member ' s seat to be vacant when a Member altered his/her nationality or the fact of whether or not he/she had a right of abode in a country other than the People ' s Republic of China as declared.

7. In regard to (iii) above, Mr LAU said that while some members of the Bills Committee agreed that a LegCo Member should be disqualified if a subsequent change in his/her status (such as acquiring a right of abode in a foreign country or changing his/her nationality) resulted in a breach of the 20% nationality rule, the majority of members disagreed with the Administration ' s proposal that a LegCo Member who changed his/her foreign nationality to Chinese nationality should also be disqualified. The Administration undertook to reconsider the proposal in the light of the view expressed by the Bills Committee.

8. Mr LAU informed members that the Bills Committee had also considered some initial proposed amendments made by individual Members. The major ones included -

  1. timing of holding general elections;

  2. voting systems for geographical constituency, functional constituency and EC elections;

  3. disqualification of electors/candidates;

  4. functional constituencies specified for candidates under the 20% nationality rule; and

  5. delineation of the electorate for the nine new functional constituencies and the seven designated groups of EC.

9. Mr LAU further said that the Bills Committee would decide in the following week whether the above amendments would be moved by him on behalf of the Bills Committee or by individual Members. He added that a written report on the deliberations of the Bills Committee would be made to the House Committee on 19 September 1997.

10. The Chairman thanked Mr LAU for his report and put forward the following options for members ' consideration -

  1. recommending to the President that an extra Council meeting be held under Rule 13(2) of the Rules of Procedure; and

  2. recommending to the President that the Council meeting scheduled for 24 September 1997 be deferred to 27 September 1997 commencing at 9:00 am.

11. The Secretary General explained that Rule 13(2) was intended to cover cases of emergency and expressed reservations about adopting the option in paragraph 10(i).

12. Mr Ronald ARCULLI asked whether it would be procedurally feasible for the Council to deal with all other items of business at the meeting on 24 September and consider the Legislative Council Bill on 27 September 1997 as a continuation of the 24 September meeting. The Secretary General replied that the proposed arrangement would contravene Rule 18(1) of the Rules of Procedure governing the order of business at a Council meeting.

13. After further discussion, members agreed that the option in paragraph 10(ii) should be adopted. Mr Ronald ARCULLI suggested that related amendments should be arranged in groups to facilitate debate and voting by Members. The Chairman informed members that the deadline for giving notice of CSAs would be 18 September 1997 instead of 13 September 1997. In response to Mr Frederick FUNG Kin-kee, he said that Members should be proposing their own amendments and not amendments to CSAs proposed by other Members or the Administration.

(ii) Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 1997
(PLC Paper No. LS 26)

14. Referring to the paper, the Legal Adviser said that the main purpose of the Bill was to prohibit a judge of the Court of Final Appeal from hearing and determining, as a member of its Appeal Committee, any application relating to matters in which he had been previously involved in a lower court, so as to safeguard against any bias of the judge concerned. He added that the Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services had been briefed on the Bill and that both the legal and drafting aspects of the Bill were in order.

15. Members agreed that the Second Reading debate on the Bill be resumed on 27 September 1997.

(b) Legal Service Division ' s reports on subsidiary legislation tabled in Council on 3 and 10 September 1997 (gazetted on 29 August 1997 and 5 September 1997)
(PLC Papers Nos. LS 23 & 25)

PLC Paper No. LS 23

16. The Legal Adviser said that the paper covered the four items of subsidiary legislation which were gazetted on 29 August 1997. He drew members ' attention to the Technical Memorandum for Supervision Plans issued under section 21 of the Buildings (Amendment) Ordinance 1996 (54 of 1996) referred to in paragraph 4 of the part of the report concerning the Buildings (Amendment) Ordinance 1996 (Commencement) (No. 2) Notice 1997 and explained that the Memorandum was subject to amendment by resolution of the Council.

17. Mr Edward HO said that the Panel on Planning, Lands and Works had received several submissions following the publication of the Technical Memorandum. He suggested that a subcommittee be formed to examine the Technical Memorandum in detail. He added that there might be a problem in extending the scrutiny period to 8 October 1997 since the meeting on that day would be devoted to the Chief Executive ' s Policy Address.

18. Dr Raymond HO Chung-tai said that the Council could consider repealing the Technical Memorandum so as to allow the subcommittee more time for work.

19. Members agreed that a subcommittee should be formed. The following members agreed to join the subcommittee : Mr HO Sai-chu, Mr Edward HO, Dr Raymond HO and Mr Ronald ARCULLI.

20. The Chairman suggested and members agreed that he would move a resolution on behalf of the House Committee to repeal the Technical Memorandum at the Council meeting on 27 September 1997 and seek the President ' s permission to waive the 12-day notice requirement under Rule 29(1) of the Rules of Procedure.

PLC Paper No. LS 25

21. Referring to the paper, the Legal Adviser said that eight of the 11 items of subsidiary legislation gazetted on 5 September 1997 proposed fee increases to achieve full recovery of costs. The remaining three items involved an amendment notice and two commencement notices.

22. Mr IP Kwok-him said that the increases proposed for some of the items were quite high and suggested a subcommittee be formed to study the subsidiary legislation in question. His view was shared by Mr James TIEN. Members agreed that a subcommittee be formed. The following members agreed to join the subcommittee : Mr James TIEN, Mr CHAN Choi-hi, Mr CHAN Kam-lam and Dr LAW Cheung-kwok.

IV. Business for the Council meeting on 27 September 1997

(a) Questions

(PLC Paper No. CB(3) 155)

23. 20 questions (six oral and 14 written) had been tentatively scheduled.

(b) Bills - 1st and 2nd Readings
24. No notice had been received.

(c) Bills - resumption of debate on 2nd Reading, Committee Stage and 3rd Reading

Legislative Council Bill

Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 1997

25.The Chairman said that members had earlier agreed that resumption of the Second Reading debate on the above two Bills would take place on 27 September 1997, subject to the President ' s agreeing to defer the Council meeting.

(d) Motions

Two resolutions under section 31 of the Births and Deaths Registration Ordinance (Cap. 174) and section 3(4) of the Legitimacy Ordinance (Cap. 184) - to be moved by Secretary for Security

(PLC Paper No. LS 24)

26. The Chairman said that the above two resolutions were originally scheduled to be moved at the Council meeting on 27 August 1997 but were withdrawn at the request of the Administration.

27. Referring to the PLC Paper No. LS 24, the Legal Adviser said that the two resolutions sought to increase fees collected by the Immigration Department under the Births and Deaths Registration Ordinance and the Legitimacy Ordinance. The proposed increases were intended to achieve full cost recovery and would take effect from 31 October 1997. The legal aspect of the resolutions was in order.

(e) Member ' s motions

28. Members noted the wording of the following two motions -

  1. Motion on ' Developing Hong Kong ' s high value-added industries ' - to be moved by Professor NG Ching-fai

  2. Motion on ' Formulating comprehensive policies on information technology ' - to be moved by Miss CHOY So-yuk

29. The Chairman said that at the last House Committee meeting held on 29 August 1997, members agreed to further discuss at this meeting the question of whether debates on members ' motions should be scheduled for the same Council meeting at which resumption of the Second Reading debate on the Legislative Council Bill would take place, given that the debate on the Bill was likely to be lengthy. He invited members ' views on the matter.

30. A few members were of the view that there were insufficient grounds for deferring the two motion debates to a later meeting. They felt that it was unlikely that the debates on the Legislative Council Bill would last too long as the Bill was less controversial than the 1994 Legislative Council (Electoral Provisions) (Amendment) Bill. They believed there would be sufficient time for the Council to deal with all the agenda items scheduled for the meeting on 27 September 1997 since the meeting would start at 9:00 am.

31. Professor NG Ching-fai, who sponsored the motion debate on ' Developing Hong Kong ' s high value-added industries ' , said that he would like the debate on his motion to take place before the Chief Executive ' s Policy Address.

32. Members agreed that the two motion debates sponsored by Professor NG Ching-fai and Miss CHOY So-yuk would take place on 27 September 1997 as scheduled.

V. Any other business

Procedure for Members to raise amendments to Members ' motions

(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 294)

33.The Chairman referred to the letter from Dr LAW Cheung-kwok which was issued to members vide PLC Paper No. CB(2) 294 and invited him to introduce the subject matter.

34. Dr LAW gave a brief account of the timing and manner in which the President ' s ruling on his proposed amendment to Mr LAU Kong-wah ' s motion on ' Supervising Hong Kong railways ' was conveyed to him by the Secretariat. He suggested that where a Member ' s proposed amendment to a motion was ruled out of order by the President, the Secretariat should make every effort to contact the Member concerned as soon as possible to inform him of the President ' s ruling. If the Secretariat staff member handling the matter was not able to speak to the Member personally by telephone, the staff concerned should leave a message on the Member ' s pager requesting the Member to return call urgently. He stressed that it was important for the Member to be informed personally at the earliest possible moment as this would enable the Member to have time to revise the terms of the amendment, if he/she so wished, before the deadline.

35. The Secretary General said that he fully agreed with Dr LAW about the need to inform Members promptly of the President ' s rulings. He added that when conveying important and urgent messages to Members, the Secretariat would as a standard practice contact them through Members ' mobile telephones or leaving messages on their pagers. He assured members that the Secretariat would always try its best in assisting Members in their work.

36. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Assistant Secretary General 3 explained the procedure adopted by the Secretariat in processing motions, and amendments to motions, proposed by Members for debate at Council meetings. He said that the role of the Secretariat was two-fold: suggesting to the Members concerned editorial changes to the wording of the proposed motions/amendments and advising the President and Members whether the motions/amendments were in order. The Secretariat always placed paramount importance on the need to be impartial and would not therefore assist Members in changing the substance of their proposed motions/amendments. Where the Secretariat was of the view that a certain motion/amendment might contravene the Rules of Procedure or other applicable established practice, the Member concerned (or his personal assistant where it was not possible to speak to the Member direct) was quickly informed. If the Member agreed with the Secretariat, he might revise his motion/amendment and resubmit it before the expiry of the deadline for notice. If the Member disagreed with the Secretariat, he might insist that the original motion/amendment be submitted that to the President for a ruling, in which case the Secretariat would make a submission to the President, conveying at the same time the Member ' s disagreement.

37. The Assistant Secretary General 3 further explained that after the President had ruled, the Secretariat would immediately convey the ruling to the Member (or his personal assistant if the Member cannot be contacted) verbally or in writing, depending on the practicability of the circumstances. In cases where the Member wished to appeal to the President, he might appeal direct to the President either in person or in writing, or ask the Secretariat to convey the request for an appeal.

38. Both Mr Ronald ARCULLI and Mr IP Kwok-him commented that Members also had a part to play in ensuring effective communication within their offices.

39. The meeting ended 3:40 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
18 September 1997