Provisional Legislative Council
PLC Paper No. 237/96-97
Ref. : PLC/HC/1
Paper for the House Committee
Meeting on 17 May 1997
Seating Arrangements for Members at
This paper sets out the various options to facilitate deliberations on the seating arrangements for Members at meetings of the Provisional Legislative Council (PLC/Council).
2.Members of the Council are given designated seats at meetings of the Council, the House Committee and the Finance Committee, and all other meetings which are attended by all Members or all Members except the President. One of the reasons for providing designated seats at these meetings is to facilitate the use of the electronic voting system in divisions.
3. By tradition in the Hong Kong Legislative Council, Members are given designated seats, arranged in the order of the 'seniority" of Members, which is determined according to the Members' length of continuous service in the legislature. It is similar to a precedence list. Where the length of continuous service is the same, e.g. when more than one Member join the legislature on the same day, the precedence is determined according to who first takes the oath. As for the order of oath-taking for new Members, the practice is to follow the alphabetical order of the Members' names.
4.In the Hong Kong Legislative Council, the"'seniority" of Members has been used not only in the seating arrangement, but also in determining the "precedence" of Members of a committee. The most senior Member is given special tasks, e.g. he is the person who, according to Standing Orders, calls and convenes the first meeting of a committee before the chairman is elected.
5.In the case of the PLC, the above principles do not apply. As a new legislature, Members may decide afresh the manner in which the precedence of Members should be determined and whether this precedence should apply to the seating arrangements at meetings of the Council and some committees. Since the beginning of the PLC session, the seating arrangement has been based on a list which starts with the Member with the least number of strokes in the first and then the subsequent character(s) of his name in Chinese. The use of this order is very common in Hong Kong and is often the most used method in the absence of any particular preference.
6.With 1st July approaching, it is time for Members to consider whether this order should continue to be used, particularly when this order will very likely be used in determining Members' precedence in the swearing-in ceremony. To facilitate discussion on the subject, the following options are provided for Members' consideration:
- the length of legislative service in Hong Kong/age
This is a combination of both the legislative service and the age. The order of the list of Members of the PLC will first be determined according to the length of their continuous legislative service. This is the most commonly adopted method in other legislatures and there will be no distinction between the periods before and after 1 July 1997. Alternatively, accumulative service could be used. For those Members who have the same length of legislative service, the order will be determined according to the seniority in age. However, there is the question of whether the period of service for PLC Members should commence on the date they assumed office in the PLC or on 1 July 1997.
- age/legislative service
This is a combination of both the age and the legislative service. The order of the list of Members of the PLC will first be determined according to seniority in age. After the swearing-in ceremony on 1 July 1997, any new Member joining the HKSAR legislature to fill a vacancy in the Council will be placed on the last of the Members' list. The seating arrangement will also be adjusted accordingly.
- the seniority in age
The question of the length of legislative service will not arise. This method is also commonly used in other purposes, e.g. in the Civil Service of Hong Kong in determining staff seniority in the event that the length of service is the same.
- the number of strokes in the characters of the Member's name in Chinese
This is the present arrangement under which the order starts with the least number of strokes in the characters of the Member's name in Chinese. Alternatively, the order could be reversed by starting with the most number of strokes. However, there have been comments by some Members that no recognition will be given to legislative service which is a commonly used yardstick in determining the precedence of Members.
- the number of votes obtained by individual Members in elections
This may work in the PLC where the number of voters for all Members is the same. A new arrangement will therefore have to be worked out for the First Legislative Council in the HKSAR as the number of voters will be different for different Members.
- ballot/legislative service
This is a combination of both the ballot and the legislative service. The order of the list of Members of the PLC will first be determined by ballot. After the swearing-in ceremony on 1 July 1997, any new Member joining the HKSAR legislature to fill a vacancy in the Council will be placed on the last of the Members' list. The seating arrangement will also be adjusted accordingly.
7.Members are invited to advise:
- whether the present arrangement of using the least number of strokes in the characters of the Member's name in Chinese should continue to be used;
- which option in paragraph 6 above should be adopted;
- whether the new arrangement, if any, should take immediate effect or from 1 July 1997 onwards; and
- whether the selected method will apply to the order of Members in the swearing-in ceremony on 1 July 1997 as well as the seating arrangement.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
15 May 1997