Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1) 1050/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref: CB1/BC/7/98/2

Bills Committee on
Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 1998

Minutes of meeting
held on Thursday, 4 February 1999, at 4:30 pm
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP (Chairman)
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP

Members absent :

Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon James TO Kun-sun

Public officers attending :

Mr Alex FONG
Deputy Secretary for Transport

Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Assistant Commissioner for Transport/Technical Services

Mr Alan LUI
Assistant Commissioner for Transport/Management and Licensing

Mr Patrick LAI
Chief Superintendent of Police

Mr Lawrence PENG
Senior Government Counsel

Mr Sunny CHAN
Senior Government Counsel

Mr CHENG Hung-leung
Chief Engineer, Transport Department

Consultant Forensic Pathologist, Department of Health

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Vivian KAM,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)5

Staff in attendance :

Miss Connie FUNG,
Assistant Legal Adviser 3

Mr Andy LAU,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)6

I Matters arising from previous meetings
(LC Paper No. CB(1) 836/98-99(01) - Information paper provided by the Administration
LC Paper No. CB(1) 836/98-99(02) - Medical researches on alcohol and road safety)

The Chairman drew members' attention to the letter dated 1 February 1999 from the Secretary for Transport which appealed for support of the Bill.

Amendments related to drink driving

2. At the request of the Administration, a video produced in Australia on drink driving and its consequences was shown at the meeting. The Deputy Secretary for Transport (DS for T) said that one of the purposes of the video was to put across an essential message that it was unsafe to drive while under the influence of alcohol, and one more drink could make one an unsafe driver.

3. The Consultant Forensic Pathologist (CFP) briefed members on possible harm posed by alcohol and its impact on a person's ability to detect risk. He advised that alcohol was a kind of anaesthetic. It would affect one's visualized system, distort perception and impair co-ordination. With the aid of purpose-made spectacles, he also demonstrated the impact of alcohol under different Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels.

4. In response to Dr LEONG Che-hung, CFP confirmed that the amount of alcohol which a driver could consume and yet stay within the statutory limit varied from time to time, depending on a wide range of factors including the physique of the driver and whether he was driving on an empty stomach, was tired, sick, or had taken medicines or drugs. As such, an individual's perception on the amount of alcohol that he could consume might not be accurate at all.

5. In response to the Chairman, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport clarified that whilst the BAC limits in different states of the United States of America (USA) varied between 100 mg and 80 mg, a BAC level of 20 mg was applied in USA for drivers under 21.

6. Mr Bernard CHAN tabled at the meeting an alcohol impairment chart issued to drivers in USA which provided guidelines on the recommended number of drinks for drivers of different physique, and suggested that the chart served useful reference. DS for T took note of the content of the chart and advised that the Administration would take into account advice by other overseas road safety administrations before deciding on the best publicity arrangement.

    (Post-meeting note: the chart was circulated to members after the meeting vide LC Paper No. CB(1) 874/98-99.)

7. In concluding deliberation on the part related to drink driving, DS for T urged members to support the tightening proposal and highlighted the following points:

  1. Drink driving was still a serious problem as Hong Kong had higher fatality rates of drivers attributable to drink driving when compared with other Asian neighbours.

  2. There were sufficient medical evidence to demonstrate that BAC level at 50 mg would start to impair a driver's judgment, and the relationship between tightening of BAC limit from 80 mg to 50 mg and reduction in fatalities and accidents had been firmly established by overseas researches.

  3. The tightening proposal would help reduce the chances of tragic incidents. During the period between December 1995 and June 1998, 77 persons were killed in accidents involving drink driving, of whom 39 were drivers who had consumed alcohol and the remaining 38 victims were non-drinkers. The tightening proposal would reinforce the message that drinkers should be more careful about the amount of alcohol they consumed if they wished to drive.

8. The Chairman invited members present to indicate their positions on the proposed amendments related to drink driving. Mr LEE Kai-ming, Dr LEONG Che-hung and Mr TAM Yiu-chung voted for, and Dr Raymond HO Chung-tai, Mr Ronald ARCULLI, Mr Bernard CHAN, Mr Howard YOUNG, Mr LAU Kong-wah and Dr TANG Siu-tong voted against the proposal. The Chairman advised that the majority of members present did not support the proposal to tighten the BAC limit from 80 mg to 50 mg.

9. Regarding the drafting of new section 39C(20) which would be added to the Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap. 374), DS for T pointed out that a notice made by the Commissioner of Police designating a place or vehicle to be a breath test centre was not subsidiary legislation. The Assistant Legal Adviser suggested that for the avoidance of doubt, the Bills Committee should consider whether an express provision should be added in the Ordinance to identify clearly the nature of such notice. The Chairman requested the Administration to consider the proposal.

Amendments related to private light buses

10. Mr CHAN Kam-lam pointed out that there appeared to be inadequate justifications for the proposed amendments. While one of the benefits of the Passenger Service Licence (PSL) Scheme, as set out in the paper was that operators could renew their PSLs once every two years instead of the one year arrangement under existing mechanism, it should be possible for the validity of approval letters to be extended from one year to two years, and hence save the need for school bus operators to incur extra burden in relation to the implementation of the PSL Scheme. Furthermore, since the Administration had all along been able to introduce mandatory safety measures, and cancel, suspend or vary the licence of a vehicle if its licensing conditions were infringed, the proposed inclusion of school private light buses in the PSL Scheme did not seem justified.

11. The Assistant Commissioner for Transport/Management and Licensing (AC/ML) explained that all public and private buses were currently regulated by the PSL Scheme except private light buses providing school transport services. The Transport Department could only impose licensing conditions on individual school private light buses through approval letters. This controlling mechanism was not efficient as licensing conditions were attached to individual vehicles, and the Administration could only implement changes to individual school private light buses one by one when their licences were due for renewal. As the approval letter was renewed on an annual basis, any new/mandatory measures would become applicable in phases to all school private light buses theoretically within 12 months. The extension of PSL scheme to school private light buses would establish a more uniform regulatory mechanism and bring it in line with other bus services regulated under the PSL Scheme. This would provide Commissioner for Transport with the flexibility in introducing changes to the licensing conditions for school private light buses that were needed in the interest of road safety.

12. The Chairman pointed out that currently, the Administration could rely on other legislation such as the Road Traffic (Construction and Maintenance of Vehicles) Regulations to impose new/mandatory measures on particular categories of vehicles if deemed necessary. She, therefore, queried the justifications for the proposal. AC/ML explained that whilst it was feasible to impose conditions on vehicles by means of other legislation, the necessary process took a long time to complete.

13. The Chairman was of the view that the proposal was cumbersome, and that alternative means for launching mandatory measures on school private light buses were already available under existing mechanism. She also drew attention to the fact that extra costs would be imposed on the trade. Although the Administration had consulted the trade on the proposal, there remained two outstanding issues which had to be addressed. First, whether the new licensing arrangement was a means to facilitate the introduction of mandatory safety measures such as the provision of escort service on school buses. Second, whether the Administration was prepared to reduce the annual licence fees for school private light buses to the same level as those currently applicable to public buses, having regard to the fact that public buses were authorized to provide a wide range of services including but not limited to student service, and that their annual licence fees were significantly lower than those of school private light buses. Currently, the annual licence fee for public bus was $25 for the driver plus an additional fee of $50 for each seat for a passenger whereas the fee for private light bus providing school services was pitched at a relatively high level of $2,749 per annum.

14. AC/ML said in reply that as a matter of practice, the Government would always consult the trade in advance before any new safety measures were introduced under both the present and the future control schemes. As for payment of fees, AC/ML said that the same PSL fee was imposed on all public and private buses subject to the PSL scheme irrespective of the different amount of vehicle licence fees payable by different types of vehicles. The proposed fee for a PSL issued in respect of a school private light bus service was not high and was only $396 per annum plus a PSL Certificate fee of $160 per annum for each vehicle under the same PSL. AC/ML did not deem it appropriate to peg the issue of the PSL fee to annual vehicle licence fees for school private light buses. Notwithstanding this, however, he advised that the Administration would take note of members' views and review the annual licence fees for different classes of vehicles in the next round of such an exercise.

15. In response to Mr CHAN Kam-lam on the basis of the proposed PSL fees, AC/ML undertook to provide further information on the factors which had been taken into account in setting the PSL fees for school private light buses and whether the fees were calculated on a cost-recovery basis. The Chairman pointed out that whilst the trade had not objected to the PSL fees, uniform and fair arrangements should be adopted in drawing up the annual licence fees for school private light buses. Her view was shared by Mr CHAN Kam-lam. Admin

16. In concluding discussion, the Chairman said that in view of members' concerns, and the fact that the outstanding issues set out in paragraph 13 had yet to be answered by the Administration, she suggested that the Administration should further examine the issue in collaboration with the trade, and provide additional information at the next meeting. Admin

Amendments related to remuneration, etc. under management agreements

17. Members noted that the Administration had provided a list of transport-related management agreements which were in similar situation as the two agreements identified where general revenue had been retained by private operators in an improper manner.

18. In response to the Chairman on the proposed course of action for rectification, DS for T advised that the Department of Justice was examining the feasibility of introducing an omnibus bill to cover bills in similar situations at one go.

19. Members had no further question on the proposed amendments and were in support of the Administration's proposal in the Bill.

II Clause-by-clause examination of the Bill
(LC Paper No. CB(1) 695/98-99 - Marked-up copy of the Bill)

20. Members agreed to conduct a clause-by-clause examination of the Bill at the next meeting to be held on 4 March 1999 at 8:30 am.

III Any other business

21. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 5:30 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
6 September 1999