on 22 January 1998
Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Security
Fire Safety Improvement Fund
This paper informs Members of our plan to set up a Fire Safety Improvement Fund (FSIF) to help building owners and owners corporations (OCs) of prescribed commercial premises and specified commercial buildings to upgrade or improve fire safety standards of their premises or buildings.
The Need for the Fund
2.After the Garley Building Fire, the Administration has drawn up a proposal to introduce legislation to improve the fire safety standards of old commercial buildings. During the three-month consultation exercise carried out from May to July 1997, general support was expressed on our proposal. However, concerns were also expressed by some submissions on the costs and practical difficulties with the proposed upgrading requirements.
3.At the meeting of the Provisional Legislative Council Panel on Security on 16 October 1997, when we briefed Members on our legislative proposal to improve fire safety of old commercial buildings, we also indicated that we were considering the setting up of a fund to provide loans to owners to upgrade fire safety standards of old commercial buildings as required by the proposed legislation. Members were supportive of our idea.
4.We have now further developed the loan fund proposal and propose to set up a $200 million FSIF for owners who may be affected by the existing Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Ordinance, as well as the Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) (Amendment) Bill 1998 after its enactment, which seeks to extend the scope of the existing Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Ordinance to cover pre-1987 old commercial buildings.
5.Initially, eligible applicants to the Fund will fall into two groups. The first group will comprise owners and OCs of the some 500 prescribed commercial premises as defined in the Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Ordinance, which have been identified by the Fire Services Department (FSD) to be targets in the first phase of implementation. The second group will be those affected by the amendment legislation. They are owners or OCs of the some 400 pre-1973 commercial buildings.
6.Loans from the FSIF could be used to finance works pertaining to upgrading fire service installations and equipment as well as improving building structures for fire safety. These works could be carried out either in individual units or common parts of premises or a building. Professional services and related works in connection with the required upgrading works could also be covered by the loans.
7.For the purpose of vetting loan applications and overseeing the operation of the FSIF, a Fire Safety Improvement Fund Advisory Committee, comprising both Government officials and non-official members appointed from the fire safety and building safety industry, will be set up.
8.FSD will be the administrator of the loan fund. The Department has set up a working group to work out the operational details of the FSIF. We are planning to submit the proposal for the approval of the Finance Committee in March 1998. To tie in with the implementation of the Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) (Amendment) Bill 1998, which we hope can be enacted within this session, we are planning to finalise all operational details to enable us to start inviting applications in mid-1998.
20 January 1998