Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2)2209/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/BC/23/98

Bills Committee on
Provision of Municipal Services (Reorganization) Bill

Minutes of Meeting
held on Thursday, 13 May 1999 at 4:30 pm
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP (Chairman)
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon Ambrose CHEUNG Wing-sum, JP
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Hon FUNG Chi-kin

Members Absent :

Hon Kenneth TING Woo-shou, JP
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP

Public Officers Attending :

Mr Michael SUEN
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Mrs Maureen CHAN
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (3)

Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (6)

Senior Assistant Law Draftsman

Mr Sunny CHAN
Senior Government Counsel

Miss Selina LAU
Government Counsel

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Mr LEE Yu-sung
Senior Assistant Legal Adviser

Miss Flora TAI
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 2

I. Election of Chairman

1. Mr Andrew WONG was elected as the presiding Member for the election of Chairman of the Bills Committee. Mr WONG then took the chair.

2. Mr Andrew WONG called for nominations for the chairmanship of the Bills Committee. Mr Andrew WONG was nominated by Mr Howard YOUNG and seconded by Mr CHAN Wing-chan. Mr Andrew WONG accepted the nomination.

3. As there was no other nomination, Mr Andrew WONG declared himself elected as Chairman of the Bills Committee. The Bills Committee decided that a Deputy Chairman would not be necessary.

II. Meeting with the Administration
[Legislative Council Brief issued by the Constitutional Affairs Bureau on 22 April 1999 (File Ref : C4/17/7)]

4. At the invitation of the Chairman, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (SCA) briefed members on the purpose and provisions of the Bill as set out in the Legislative Council Brief. He said that the object of the Bill was to make provisions for the dissolution of the Provisional Urban Council (PUC) and Provisional Regional Council (PRC), and for the transfer of all property, rights, liabilities, powers and functions to the Government or designated public officers. SCA also highlighted the following points in the Bill:

  1. it provided for reconciliation of differences, where appropriate, between the subsidiary legislation of the two Provisional Municipal Councils (PMCs);

  2. it sought to delete certain provisions in the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Chapter 132) and its subsidiary legislation and the repeal of some duplicated subsidiary legislation;

  3. it only proposed changes which were essential to effecting the dissolution of PUC and PRC, with very limited changes in existing policies;

  4. it sought the formation of three statutory bodies, i.e. a Liquor Licensing Board, a Licensing Appeals Board and a Municipal Services Appeals Board in place of the existing boards and committees performing similar functions under the PMCs;

  5. it preserved the liability for offences committed under a repealed enactment and the power to prosecute for continuing offences committed under a repealed enactment; and

  6. it preserved the fees and charges of the PMCs until these were revised.

5. On the future fee-setting mechanism, SCA said that there was a total of some 900 different types of fees and charges under the two PMCs. The Administration proposed two approaches in determining the fees and charges under the new structure. Fees for licences and permits which had legal effects would be prescribed in regulations subject to negative vetting by the LegCo. However, it would create administrative difficulties if the same approach was adopted for setting other fees and charges which were mainly admission fees or course fees for cultural and recreational programmes and hire charges for venues. The price levels of this category depended on a number of factors such as the location of the venues and popularity of the programmes. In view of the enormous diversity of these fees and the "market-oriented" approach in price-setting, the Administration proposed that these fees should be set by Director of Leisure and Cultural Services subject to the approval of the Financial Secretary. In response to Mr Ambrose CHEUNG, SCA said that the existing fees and charges would be preserved upon the transfer pending a review within two years.

6. SCA also noted members' concern about the future licensing system. He said that the Administration was now concentrating on the preparatory work for the transfer. Before the establishment of the new structure, PMCs would continue to be responsible for the licensing policy, and the Bill only incorporated changes essential to effecting the new structure for the delivery of municipal services.

7. With regard to the revised composition of the Arts Development Council and Sports Development Board, SCA said that the legislative amendments would be proposed by the Secretary for Home Affairs and introduced into the LegCo as soon as possible.

8. SCA said that there were seven Schedules in the Bill proposing amendments to about 60 ordinances and 100 subsidiary legislation; many provisions involved only technical amendments and were not very complicated.

9. With regard to the legislative timetable, SCA said that as the term of office of PMC members would lapse on 31 December 1999, the new framework for taking over the functions and powers of the PMCs must be able to function on 1 January 2000 in order not to disrupt services to the public. He thanked LegCo Members for according priority to the examination of the Bill, and he hoped that the Bill could be passed by the end of October 1999 to allow sufficient time for the necessary administrative arrangements. He said that upon passage of the Bill, the Administration would have to seek the approval of the Legislative Council Finance Committee on the new organisational structure, re-deployment of posts and other transitional arrangements. He assured members that the Administration would make the best efforts to co-operate with the Bills Committee in the scrutiny of the Bill.

III. Way forward

10. In view of the voluminous provisions in the Bill and the fact that LegCo Members had already debated and stated their positions on the abolition of the two PMCs at previous meetings of relevant Panels and Committees, the Chairman suggested that, subject to members' agreement, the Bills Committee would not discuss this fundamental policy again. For effective use of meeting time, the Chairman proposed that the Bills Committee should start clause-by-clause examination, while other policy issues or principles arising could be discussed at a later stage. Where necessary, deputations could be invited to forward written submissions on the Bill or specific issues some time later. Messrs Howard YOUNG, CHAN Kam-lam and YEUNG Yiu-chung supported the proposal. Mr Howard YOUNG said that except for provisions which involved changes in policies or creation of new bodies or functions, the Bills Committee should not spend too much time on the technical amendments.

11. Messrs LI Wah-ming and LEE Wing-tat did not agree to the approach. They considered that certain policy issues such as the fee-setting mechanism and the role and functions of some new bodies including the non-statutory Culture Commission would have to be discussed before examination of the relevant clauses. Mr Ambrose CHEUNG accepted the suggestion that the Bills Committee needed not discuss the overall policy regarding abolition of PMCs. However, he considered that "medium-range" policy issues relating to the new licensing and appeals mechanism, functions of the new Liquor Licensing Board and operation of the new framework should be discussed since the Bill did not provide details on these issues.

12. After some discussion, members agreed to adopt a parallel approach so that discussion of policy issues and clause-by-clause examination of the Bill would proceed concurrently. The Bills Committee would designate certain meetings for discussion of "medium-range" policy issues such as the licensing mechanism and fee-setting. The Chairman also asked members to forward to him suggestions of other policy issues for future discussion. Members also agreed that meetings with deputations would be arranged when necessary. Members

13. With regard to the meeting schedule, members agreed to hold regular meetings every Friday morning at 8:30 am during June-October 1999, with a break in August. Additional meetings would be held as and when necessary.

IV. Clause-by-clause examination

14. The Bills Committee then proceeded to clause-by-clause examination of the Bill. Responding to the Chairman, Senior Assistant Legal Adviser (SALA) informed members that the 13 clauses in the Bill were general provisions concerned with the legal matters relating to the transfer of powers, functions, property and liabilities from the PMCs to "the new authority" as defined in the Bill. The substantive provisions and consequential amendments were contained in the seven Schedules, in particular Schedule 3 which contained proposed amendments to the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132) and its subsidiary legislation. The Legal Service Division was still scrutinizing the provisions in the Bill in the context of the existing subsidiary legislation of PUC and PRC.

Clause 1- Short title and commencement

15. In response to the Chairman, SALA said that the Policy Secretary could appoint different dates for the commencement of different provisions in the future Ordinance under section 20 of the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance (Cap. 1).

Clause 2- Interpretation

16. Mr LEE Wing-tat inquired about the meaning of "former authority" and whether it referred to PMCs or the respective Directors of the executive departments. SALA informed members that under the existing provisions of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132), "the authority" would in most cases mean PUC or PRC according to their geographical jurisdiction. Mr LEE raised the question of the delegation of authority of PMCs, noting that Director of Regional Services was responsible for signing service contracts for PRC. Senior Assistant Law Draftsman (SALD) explained that "former authority" was only a general definition and it depended on who actually performed the function upon delegation.

17. Mr LEE asked whether the delegation of authority could come into effect with the passage of the Bill or whether a new delegation process should take place. SALD said that the detailed provisions in the Schedule would specify whether the Director or other bodies would have the power for a particular function. SCA also referred members to clause 8(2)(e) which was a savings clause that the exercise of power by or on behalf of the former authority in force immediately before the transfer would have continuing effect as if granted by the new authority. The Administration would consider whether new delegations would be required by the new authority at the time of transfer. The Chairman suggested and members agreed to examine the legal effect of clause 8(2)(e) later. Admin

18. Ms Cyd HO asked the Administration to consider including a definition of "municipal services" in clause 2. SCA responded that the scope of services was essentially those covered by the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132) and its subsidiary legislation. SALA added that there was no definition of "municipal services" in Cap. 132. The scope of these services would have to be understood with reference to the different services under Cap. 132. Referring to the long list of by-laws under Cap. 132, the Chairman commented that it might not be feasible to have a definition of municipal services.

19. In response to Ms HO's further enquiry, SCA explained that Cap. 132 covered a wide range of municipal services including arts and culture. The Bill also provided for the transfer of the functions and powers in respect of culture, arts, recreation and sports services of PMCs to Home Affairs Bureau and the new Leisure and Cultural Services Department. However, the establishment of a Culture and Heritage Commission was not covered by the Bill because the Commission would be a non-statutory body and no legislation was required. Ms HO expressed concern that the scope of municipal services might became less clear after the re-organisation and considered that a definition might be necessary. SCA clarified that the Bill did not propose any changes in the scope of municipal services currently delivered by PMCs, apart from the deletion of some obsolete or duplicated provisions such as the controls of laundries, dry cleaning establishments and labourers' lines. In this connection, Mr LEE Wing-tat queried why the Administration proposed to repeal the provisions on labourers' lines which still existed in some remote areas. The Chairman suggested and members agreed to discuss issues relating to the repeal of obsolete provisions at a later stage.

20. Mr Ambrose CHEUNG asked about the legislative arrangements for the proposed transfer of Music Office to the Academy for Performing Arts (APA). SCA clarified that Music Office was once a government department but subsequently transferred to the PMCs. As the service of Music Office was not covered by Cap. 132 at present, its transfer to APA would be effected by administrative arrangements. Mr CHEUNG also requested the Administration to provide a list of the legislative and/or administrative arrangements for implementing the recommendations of the two Consultancy Reports on the new structure. Where only administrative arrangements were proposed, the Administration should give the reasons why legislative measures were unnecessary. The Administration agreed to provide the list. Admin

Clause 3 - Repeal of Provisional Regional Council Ordinance and Provisional Urban Council Ordinance

21. In response to Mr LEE Wing-tat's enquiry about the legal effect of deleting Clause 3 from the Bill, SALA explained that as the terms of office of incumbent PMC members would expire on 31 December 1999, PMCs would continue to exist if Clause 3 was deleted but without any member. The Chairman added that all the powers of PMCs would have been transferred to the new authority if all other provisions of the Bill were passed.

V. Date of next meeting

22. Members agreed to hold the next meeting on 25 May 1999 and subsequent meetings on 4 and 11 June 1999, and thereafter every Friday morning at 8:30 am. Members also agreed to discuss the fee-setting policy and continue clause-by-clause examination at the next meeting.

23. The meeting ended at 6:30 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
4 June 1999