Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(3) 1967/98-99(01)

Ref: CB(3)/C/2 (V)

Committee on Members' Interests

Minutes of the fifth meeting
held on Tuesday 25 May 1999 at 10:45 am
in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin (Chairman)
Hon SIN Chung-kai (Deputy Chairman)
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon NG Leung-sing
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung

Member absent :

Hon Bernard CHAN

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Betty LEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary (3)1

Staff in attendance :

Mr LAW Kam-sang, JP
Deputy Secretary General

Mr LEE Yu-sung
Senior Assistant Legal Adviser

Mr Arthur LEUNG
Senior Assistant Secretary (3)1

I. Confirmation of Minutes of the meeting held on 14 April 1999
(LC Paper No. CB(3)1636/98-99(01))

The minutes of the last meeting were confirmed without amendments.

II. Procedure for handling complaints about the registration and declaration of Members' interests or a failure to do so
(LC Paper No. CB(3)1636/98-99(02))

2. The Chairman invited comments from members on the revised draft procedure for handling complaints about the registration and declaration of Members' interests or a failure to do so by the Committee on Members' Interests ("the procedure").

3. To enable him to decide on whether he would or would not support the proposal for the Committee on Members' Interests ("the Committee") to consider an anonymous complaint on an exceptional basis, Mr. SIN Chung-kai enquired about the procedure adopted by overseas legislatures for the handling of anonymous complaints. The Chairman referred members to the papers tabled, which were extracts of the procedure adopted by the United Kingdom ("UK") and United States ("US"). Members noted that whilst the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards of the UK Parliament would not entertain anonymous complaints, the US House of Representatives would require a complaint to be submitted in writing, under oath and accompanied by the name and legal address of the complainant. Mr SIN Chung-kai then enquired if anonymous complaints were defined in the procedure. He said that it was not clear whether a complaint lodged by a named person, who could not be contacted, was regarded as an anonymous complaint. Senior Assistant Legal Adviser ("SALA") said that paragraph 1 of the English version of the draft procedure had used the term "identifiable" to qualify the complainants. In other words, the complainant's identity had to be established before a complaint would be dealt with by the Committee. The clerk suggested that the Chinese version of the draft procedure could be revised to the effect that non-anonymous complaints referred to those complaints made by complainants who could be contacted.

4. The Chairman invited members to consider the clerk's suggestion. Mr NG Leung-sing said that he regarded anonymous complaints as complaints made by complainants who had not given their names. If a name was given, then the complaint was not an anonymous complaint. However, when the Committee proceeded with the investigation and could not contact or identify the complainant, the Committee had to end the investigation. Mr SIN Chung-kai asked if there was a legal definition for the term "anonymity". SALA replied that he did not have information whether there is one off hand but the ordinary literal meaning of the term was that a name was not provided. Ms HO Sau-lan said that she considered it adequate if it could be spelt out in the procedure that the identity of the complainant should be ascertained. SALA then suggested to specify in the procedure that the complainant should be "identifiable" before the Committee would consider such a complaint.

5. DSG said that in the circumstances and subject to members' agreement, the clerk should be delegated the power to make initial contacts with the complainant to ascertain his identity. The meeting agreed and asked the secretariat to revise the wording in paragraph 2 to this effect. Clerk,SAL/A

6. Mr SIN Chung-kai said that after considering the practices adopted by other parliaments, he withdrew his suggestion made at the last meeting that anonymous complaints could be considered by the Committee. Mr HO Sai-chu said that since the last meeting had formally voted on and adopted Mr SIN Chung-kai's proposal, he suggested that the Committee formally rescind such decision. The Chairman then asked every member present to give his/her opinion, and each in turn agreed that anonymous complaints should not be dealt with by the Committee.

7. Mr SIN Chung-kai asked if there was any reason to require an anonymous complaint to be circulated to members of the Committee for information since it had been agreed that the Committee would not handle these complaints. Deputy Secretary General ("DSG") responded that it was necessary for the Secretariat to inform the Committee members of such anonymous complaints which had been addressed to the Committee, although no further action would be taken.

8. Referring to paragraph 2(c) of the procedure, Mr SIN Chung-kai asked what would constitute "other reasons" to enable the Chairman to decide not to hold an investigative meeting. DSG replied that the purpose of the provision was to provide some flexibility, as it was not possible to provide in advance an exhaustive list of reasons for not holding a meeting to consider a complaint. After all, if the Chairman of the Committee decided not to hold such a meeting to consider a complaint, both the decision and the reasons for the decision had to be forwarded to members of the Committee for information. Ms HO Sau-lan said that a member might still wish to take up a case and lodge a formal complaint in his/her own name if he/she considered that the anonymous complaint had substantial and reliable information and was worthy of his/her action.

9. In respect of paragraphs 1 and 2, members agreed that all amendments relating to the handling of anonymous complaints as tentatively agreed at the last meeting should be removed, except the textual amendment to the original paragraph 2(c) of the Chinese version, and the secretariat should further amend these paragraphs pursuant to the decisions taken earlier.Clerk

10. Members agreed to the tentative amendments made at the last meeting in respect of paragraphs 8, 14, 16, 17, 19 and heading for paragraph 20 of the Chinese version; and paragraphs 8, 12, 16, and 19 of the English version of the procedure. The meeting agreed that the amendments to paragraphs 1 and 2 should be circulated to members for approval, and subject to there being no further comments and amendments by members, the procedure should be taken as formally adopted.

III. Date of next meeting

11. Members agreed that the Chairman would call the next meeting when there was a need.

12. The meeting ended at 11:05 am.

Legislative Council Secretariat
July 1999