LC Paper No. FC8/99-00
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/F/1/2
Finance Committee of the Legislative Council
Minutes of the 22nd meeting
Members present :
held at the Legislative Council Chamber
on Friday, 9 July 1999, at 2:30 pm
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP (Chairman)
Hon CHAN Kam-lam (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Kenneth TING Woo-shou, JP
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon HO Sai-chu, SBS, JP
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, SBS, JP
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Ir Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Martin LEE Chu-ming, SC, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming, SBS, JP
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming, JP
Hon NG Leung-sing
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Margaret NG
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Ambrose CHEUNG Wing-sum, JP
Hon HUI Cheung-ching
Hon Christine LOH
Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam, JP
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon LAU Chin-shek, JP
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon SZETO Wah
Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, GBS, JP
Hon FUNG Chi-kin
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Dr Hon LUI Ming-wah, JP
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting, SBS, JP
Public officers attending:
Clerk in attendance:
Miss Denise YUE, JP
- Secretary for the Treasury
- Mrs Carrie LAM, JP
- Deputy Secretary for the Treasury
- Mr K K LAM
- Principal Executive Officer (General), Finance Bureau
- Mr Patrick LAU, JP
- Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
- Mr Gary Y S YEUNG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
- Mr K N CHEUNG
- Assistant Director of Housing
- Mr F M LUK
- Assistant Director of Civil Engineering
- Mr Kenneth MAK
- Deputy Secretary for Trade and Industry
- Mr Alex MA
- Assistant Director of Information Technology Services
- Miss LAU Ching-mui, Josephine
- Assistant Commissioner for Census and Statistics
- Mr POON Yeung-kwong,Vincent
- Assistant Commissioner of Customs and Excise
- Mr CHEUNG Tak-hau, Edmund
- Principal Trade Officer of Trade Department
- Mr Bobby CHENG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Trade and Industry
- Mr Francis HO, JP
- Director-General of Industry
- Ms Annie CHOI
- Assistant Director-General of Industry
- Ms Doris CHEUNG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport
- Mr Thomas THUMB
- Assistant Commissioner for Transport
- Mr Patrick LAI
- Chief Superintendent of Police (Traffic), Hong Kong Police Force
Staff in attendance:
Ms Pauline NG
- Assistant Secretary General 1
Item No. 1 - FCR(1999-2000)33
- Miss Polly YEUNG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3
- Ms Sarah YUEN
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1)4
RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE PUBLIC WORKS SUBCOMMITTEE MADE ON 23 JUNE 1999
The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 2 - FCR(1999-2000)34
CAPITAL WORKS RESERVE FUND
HEAD 701 - LAND ACQUISITION
HEAD 91 - LANDS DEPARTMENT
‥ Subhead 221 Clearance of Government land - ex-gratia allowances
Ex-gratia allowances for slipways arising from clearances
2. Mr LEE Wing-tat stated that Members of the Democratic Party (DP) were in support of the proposal. He pointed out that Members of DP were aware that compensation issues relating to clearance exercises were outside the scope of the present proposal. However, as the present proposal would help remove one of the impediments to the clearance exercise in Tsing Yi, they hoped that the proposal could be approved and that the Government would continue discussion with the affected shipyards with a view to resolving the clearance problems expeditiously.
3. Mr TAM Yiu-chung said that Members of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) were in support of the revised proposal which provided a more objective basis for calculating the ex-gratia allowances (EGAs). He remarked that there had been some misunderstanding at the district level over DAB's stance on this proposal. He reiterated that DAB was keen to see the prompt clearance of the shipyards. However, it was equally important that the affected operators would be able to continue their operation as their business would provide jobs for workers. Members of DAB therefore considered it necessary for the Government to explore ways to help the affected shipyards. Miss CHAN Yuen-han also expressed concern about the effectiveness of the Government's measures to assist the relocation of the affected shipyards.
4. Miss CHOY So-yuk stated that Members of the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance were in support of the revised proposal. Mr James TIEN also stated that by and large, the proposal had the support of Members of the Liberal Party (LP).
5. Regarding the tenancy of the 15 affected shipyards, the Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (DS/PEL) pointed out that the relevant leases had expired in April and July 1997. As negotiations for clearance and relocation of the shipyards were underway, the Administration had extended the tenure of the leases by one year and waived the rents. He confirmed that according to its plan, the Administration would carry out the clearance exercise before the end of 1999.
|6. In respect of rendering assistance to the affected shipyards, DS/PEL elaborated that the Government was under no legal obligation to provide an alternative site for the affected shipyards as they were occupying the land on short-term leases. The Government, however, in recognition of the contribution of the industry, had offered them a nearby site away from residential area. The alternative site would be offered by way of a private treaty grant, but the Government and the affected shipyards were still negotiating on the premium to be paid. In this regard, the Administration had already lowered the premium by some 50% and agreed to its payment by five annual installments. On issues outside the scope of the present proposal, he assured members that the Administration would continue its dialogue with the affected operators with a view to working out mutually acceptable arrangements for the clearance exercise in North Tsing Yi.
7. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung queried whether approval of the present proposal would bring about an effective solution to the clearance problem, and whether the Government would be prepared to make further concession in its negotiation with the affected shipyards.
8. In response, DS/PEL reiterated that Finance Committee (FC)'s approval of the basis for calculating EGAs would at least remove an impediment to the clearance exercise. On possible concessions, he confirmed that after careful review, the Administration was not in a position to make further concession on policy issues such as varying the 15-year tenure for private treaty grant to 30 years as requested by the shipyard operators. However, the Administration was prepared to examine technical issues such as providing an independent entrance and exit at the shipyards for lorries. DS/PEL pointed out that although the Administration was empowered to clear the site in question, it would prefer to do so through mutual negotiation with the affected shipyards.
9. In response to Mrs Miriam LAU, the Assistant Director of Housing advised that piers measuring about 180 feet in length and built adjacent to the slipway would be regarded as open working areas for the purpose of determining EGAs. As to whether the affected shipyards were in support of calculating EGAs on the basis of the actual area of slipways, DS/PEL confirmed that the shipyard operators had been briefed on the revised proposal on 25 June 1999. Although so far, the operators had not given any firm response after the meeting, DS/PEL stressed that the operators had not raised any objection at the meeting. He added that test bathymetric surveys conducted at two slipways had confirmed the viability of the method.
|10. Mrs Miriam LAU stated that as representative of the Transport constituency, she would not support the proposal due to the uncompromising attitude of the Administration on this matter and other clearance issues which remained unresolved. She said that whilst the Administration recognized the contribution of the shipyards, it had all along been very resistant to the industry's requests since negotiation first commenced in 1994. As regards the alternative site offered, the seabed was made up of mud and considerable costs would be needed for site formation. Mrs LAU urged the Administration to take into consideration the difficulty faced by the shipyards in relocating their business and to seriously consider the shipyards' request to effect payment of premium by 10 annual installments. She stressed that the shipyards in question were willing to relocate their business to make way for the clearance but lacked the means to do so. The Administration took note of Mrs LAU's views.
11. The Chairman put the item to vote. 38 members voted for the proposal, one voted against and three abstained:
|Mr Kenneth TING Woo-shou||Mr James TIEN Pei-chun
|Mr HO Sai-chu||Miss Cyd HO Sau-lan
|Mr Edward HO Sing-tin||Mr Albert HO Chun-yan
|Mr Michael HO Mun-ka||Dr Raymond HO Chung-tai
|Mr LEE Wing-tat||Mr LEE Cheuk-yan
|Mr Martin LEE Chu-ming||Mr LEE Kai-ming
|Mr Fred LI Wah-ming||Prof NG Ching-fai
|Miss Margaret NG||Mr MA Fung-kwok
|Mr James TO Kun-sun||Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong
|Mr Ambrose CHEUNG Wing-sum||Mr HUI Cheung-ching
|Mr CHAN Kam-lam||Dr LEONG Che-hung
|Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung||Mr Gary CHENG Kai-nam
|Dr Philip WONG Yu-hong||Mr WONG Yung-kan
|Mr Jasper TSANG Yok-sing||Mr Howard YOUNG
|Dr YEUNG Sum||Mr YEUNG Yiu-chung
|Mr LAU Chin-shek||Mr Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen
|Miss Emily LAU Wai-hing||Miss CHOY So-yuk
|Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo||Mr SZETO Wah
|Mr LAW Chi-kwong||Mr TAM Yiu-chung
|Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee
|Mr CHAN Kwok-keung
|Miss CHAN Yuen-han
|Mr CHAN Wing-chan
12. The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 3 - FCR(1999-2000)35
CAPITAL WORKS RESERVE FUND
HEAD 710 - COMPUTERISATION
Government Secretariat: Trade and Industry Bureau
‥ Subhead A008XV Electronic data interchange system
HEAD 31 - CUSTOMS AND EXCISE DEPARTMENT
‥ Subhead 001 Salaries
HEAD 26 - CENSUS AND STATISTICS DEPARTMENT
‥ Subhead 001 Salaries
HEAD 181 - TRADE DEPARTMENT
‥ Subhead 001 Salaries
13. Whilst stating that Members of LP were in support of the proposal which should be implemented much earlier, Mr James TIEN enquired about the uses of the approved commitment of $194,832,000 and of the increase of $110,070,000 being sought.
14. In reply, the Deputy Secretary for Trade and Industry (DS/T&I) advised that the $194,832,000 had been used to implement the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) System for processing trade-related documents ranging from Restrained Textiles Export Licences to Dutiable Commodities Permits. The additional commitment of $110,070,000 would be for implementing EDI for Cargo Manifests. The Assistant Director of Information Technology Services supplemented that the non-recurrent expenditure for implementation services listed in paragraph 14(b) of the discussion paper referred to the outsourcing costs.
15. Given the non-recurrent and recurrent expenditures incurred by EDI submission of cargo manifest (EMAN), Mr James TIEN questioned the savings which could be achieved as a result. In response, DS/T&I stressed that EMAN was part of the Government's active effort to encourage the widespread use of EDI for trade-related transactions in order to enhance Hong Kong's competitiveness in the global business community. Hence, savings on staff costs were not the sole objective of EMAN. Nevertheless, the bulk of the savings on staff costs had been achieved in the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) as a result of a reduced need for manual processing although savings in other departments would be much less significant. DS/T&I added that the central database of the EMAN system would enable much quicker documentation processing time for the Trade Department and the Customs and Excise Department.
16. In reply to Mr HUI Cheung-ching's question on possible redundancy problem in the C&SD as a result of the deletion of 36 posts after implementation of EMAN, the Assistant Commissioner for Census and Statistics advised that the majority of the posts proposed to be deleted belonged to the Clerical Grade. The posts would not be deleted immediately since it would take some time to develop the EDI system for cargo manifests. The posts to be deleted would be taken into account by the Government when overseeing the deployment of Clerical Grade officers. She said that no redundancy problem was anticipated at the moment.
17. Miss Emily LAU noted that the Administration had estimated that the use of EMAN might bring about cost savings for the community in the order of some $8.3 billion. She enquired whether the estimated savings were the direct benefit of the implementation of EMAN and if so, whether the Administration would consider charging a reasonable fee on the users to help meet part of the cost for EMAN.
18. In response, DS/T&I explained that all along, the Government had not imposed any direct charge on the users in connection with the implementation of the EDI System. However, the Tradelink Electronic Commerce Limited (Tradelink) currently charged a modest fee for its services. As the Administration understood, Tradelink was considering to charge $20 per transaction for the electronic submission of cargo manifests and the industry found the proposed charge broadly acceptable.
19. On the savings of $8.3 billion, DS/T&I clarified that this was not a direct benefit resulting from EMAN but an approximate figure derived from certain assumptions. Of the total value of the goods imported and exported in 1998 at $2,776,741 million, it had been estimated that the costs of procedures and paperwork of traders were between 3% and 5%. Based on the information provided by the Director of Audit in his report, the use of EDI could reduce 10% of such costs taken at its lower end and the cost saved would be about $8.3 billion. In reply to the Chairman about the percentage cost for processing cargo manifests, DS/T&I said that as far as he understood, such cost would be very small for traders but more significant for cargo carriers.
20. On cost savings for the business community, Mr James TIEN pointed out that the companies concerned also had to invest in computer facilities and engage computer personnel in the use of EDI for trade-related transactions. In reply, DS/T&I confirmed that the figure of $8.3 billion already represented the estimated net savings and further stressed that considering the costs and benefits, due regard should also be given to the indirect benefit brought to the community as a result of the wider use of electronic commerce.
21. In this connection, the Chairman highlighted the need for Hong Kong to catch up with its trading partners in automating its business and pointed out that the business community might also be able to benefit from a much shorter documentation processing time after the introduction of EMAN. He also commented that whilst the business community had to bear a cost to comply with new requirements, the Government had a duty to make compliance affordable.
22. The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 4 - FCR(1999-2000)36
HEAD 184 - TRANSFERS TO FUNDS
‥ New Capital Account Subhead "Payment to the Innovation and Technology Fund"
INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY FUND
‥ NEW HEAD "INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY"
23. On the adequacy of the allocation of $5 billion for the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) for five to seven years, the Director-General of Industry (DG of I) explained that this estimate was based on the operational experience of the Industry Support Fund (ISF) and Services Support Fund (SSF). The Administration estimated that on average about $1 billion from the ITF would be disbursed every year. Whilst he considered the five to seven years a realistic estimate, he stressed that only high-quality and worthwhile projects would be funded and there was no requirement that the funds must be spent in five or seven years' time.
24. On disbursement of funds, DG of I confirmed that as the ISF and SSF would be subsumed under the ITF, the outstanding liabilities of about $481 million of existing projects under the two Funds would be charged to the ITF. Members also noted that projects each costing more than the prevailing funding ceiling for Category D projects in the Public Works Programme (currently at $15 million) would be submitted to the FC for approval.
25. As regards the allocation of funds for the four broad categories of activities, DG of I pointed out that in principle, funding would be considered on the merits of individual projects. However, it was planned that some 70% of the total resources would be used to fund research projects of the Applied Science and Technology Research Institute. DG of I nevertheless pointed out that in future, if clear success was demonstrated in other categories such as technology entrepreneurship, greater funding support would be given to these activities. Regarding activities such as symposia, DG of I advised that worthwhile projects of this type were included under the category of General Support Activities for which funding support had been provided in the past.
26. On the proposal to review the ITF once every three years, DG of I advised that it was appropriate to review the Fund after a period of three years when sufficient operational experience had been gained.
|27. At Dr TANG Siu-tong's request for further details on the number, nature and result of the projects funded by the ISF and SSF, DG of I undertook to provide the information in writing after the meeting. As the SSF had only been set up for three years and some of the projects had not been completed, the Administration was not in a position to evaluate the projects at this stage but would report the outcome to the Trade and Industry Panel in due course.
|28. Mr James TIEN stated that Members of LP were in support of the proposal. Referring to the scheme of Matching Grant for Joint Research, he sought clarification on the ownership of and access to the intellectual property rights of the project results of the company and university concerned and urged the Administration to formulate clearer guidelines. In response, DG of I considered that the participating company should have priority as the researches under this scheme were basically company-initiated. To address Mr TIEN's concern, he agreed to consider drawing up guidelines on this aspect when finalising details of the scheme.
29. Noting that proposals under the University-Industry Collaboration Scheme would be funded by the ITF on a first-come, first-served basis, Mr James TIEN queried why these proposals would not be subject to competitive assessment. DG of I advised that due to the proprietary issues involved, companies might not wish to disclose details of their projects to other parties such as an assessment panel. Adopting a first-come, first-served approach would also provide the necessary flexibility to tie in with the needs of the company involved. As to whether all available funds would be taken up by a single university and private enterprise, DG of I assured members that this would be unlikely as each university in Hong Kong had its own strengths and specialization. He did not envisage that the scheme would be subject to abuse by individual companies as they would also be required to fund 50% of the project cost.
|30. Regarding information on areas where Hong Kong could do well, DG of I advised that such information could be found in the first and second reports of the Commission on Innovation and Technology. In brief, Hong Kong should promote technology-based industries, and at the same time encourage traditional industries to add value and increase productivity through innovation and technology application. He undertook to make available the relevant extracts for interested members' perusal after the meeting.
31. Miss Emily LAU noted that the Financial Secretary (FS) was empowered to authorize the investment of unexpended balance held in the Fund, and enquired about the method of investment. The Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (DS/Tsy) explained that such powers were conferred on FS by the Resolution made under section 29 of the Public Finance Ordinance (Cap. 2) and passed by the Legislative Council on 30 June 1999. The ITF was a statutory, Government-administered fund and its management and investment arrangements would be subject to the existing control mechanisms normally applicable to such funds. DS/Tsy advised that the management and investment of the funds was delegated to the Director of Accounting Services who usually adopted a relatively conservative investment strategy. The Secretary for the Treasury added that at present, a dedicated team of officers in the Treasury were responsible for investment of various funds, including the Subsidized Schools Provident Fund.
32. In reply to members, the Administration confirmed that all investment income and proceeds received from any disbursement from the ITF would be credited back to the Fund. DG of I clarified that on the category of Technology Entrepreneurship Promotion Activities, the Government would hope to receive a royalty on the profits generated by successful technology-based businesses, details of which were yet to be worked out. An additional loan might also be considered in special cases where the applicant was unable to come up with the matching fund. For the other three categories of activities, funding support would be in the form of a grant which the ITF would not seek to recover.
33. Mr HUI Cheung-ching commented that in view of the innovative nature of the projects in question, there was likelihood that these projects might not succeed. He therefore expressed concern about the impact of the "blacklisting" arrangement on companies/project teams and whether they could appeal against the decision to blacklist them. Mr Andrew CHENG raised similar concern about unsuccessful applications. In response, DG of I pointed out that the practice of "blacklisting" under-performing companies was also in place for the ISF and SSF. He cautioned that such a control mechanism was necessary as the ITF was funded by the general revenue.
34. On behalf of Members of DP, Dr YEUNG Sum expressed support for the proposed ITF but urged the Administration to closely monitor the financial viability of the Fund. Acknowledging Dr YEUNG's concern, DG of I assured members that apart from prudent fund management, the Government would see to it that all applications for funding support under the ITF would be very carefully vetted.
35. On behalf of Members of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, Miss CHAN Yuen-han supported the proposal. However, she questioned the absence of an appeal system for applicants whose funding request was turned down. Mr Andrew CHENG and Mr Albert HO were concerned that all applications must be fairly and properly handled in the absence of an appeal channel. Mr HO was further concerned about the confidentiality requirements in vetting project applications.
36. DG of I re-affirmed that an appeal system would not be provided under the ITF, having regard to the number of funding applications, the administrative cost and the time involved. To ensure fairness to applicants, DG of I assured members that the application/administrative procedures would be streamlined and all applications would be carefully assessed on its merits. The secretariat of ITF would play an active role in verifying doubtful information with a view to assisting applicants to submit their requests in accordance with the requirements and criteria of the ITF. As funds were disbursed on two occasions each year, applications which had failed on the first occasion could be re-submitted, with suitable modifications, on the second occasion for further consideration.
37. Mr Andrew CHENG enquired about the size of the proposed advisory structure for the ITF and was particularly concerned about possible conflict of interests given that members of the advisory structure and potential applicants would mainly come from the academic and business sectors.
38. In response, DG of I informed members that the proposed advisory structure would comprise about 20 members including academics, businessmen and two Government officials, being DG of I and an Assistant Director-General of Industry. In his capacity as administrator of the Fund, DG of I would see to it that only worthwhile projects would be funded.
|39. DG of I further assured members that stringent guidelines on the declaration of interests were already in place. Committee members had to declare interest and withdraw from the discussion on items to which they were related (e.g. projects undertaken by the faculty or company to which the committee member belonged). Moreover, the secretariat of the ITF would also remind members of the advisory structure of any possible conflict of interests before the relevant meeting. DG of I said that the proposed advisory structure comprising academics, businessmen and Government officials would provide sufficient checks and balances in project assessment and monitoring. He undertook to make periodic reports to the Trade and Industry Panel on the progress of the ITF and the work of the advisory structure.
40. Mrs Sophie LEUNG stated her view that she would not support the establishment of an appeal system under the ITF. In reply to her, DG of I confirmed that there would be members on the future advisory structure capable of providing sound advice on projects under the category of Technology Entrepreneurship Promotion Activities.
41. For the purpose of facilitating the public at large in monitoring the future operation of ITF, Mr SIN Chung-kai suggested that a dedicated website should be set up on successful ITF projects. In reply, DG of I confirmed that an interactive website would be set up in August 1999.
42. The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 5 - FCR(1999-2000)37
CAPITAL WORKS RESERVE FUND
HEAD 708 - CAPITAL SUBVENTIONS AND MAJOR SYSTEMS AND EQUIPMENT
‥ New Subhead "Expansion of Speed Enforcement Camera System"
43. Mr LAU Kong-wah noted that despite implementation of the expanded speed enforcement camera system, the number of Police staff would need to be increased from 2000-01 onwards. He queried the justification for additional staff to deal with some 1 600 to 2 000 cases per month and to carry out simple tasks such as mounting the camera units onto camera sites, unloading and reloading the camera units to other sites, checking the identity of vehicle owners and issuing Pol 571. He considered that Police officers should be deployed to enforce law and order instead of to perform routine clerical tasks.
44. In response, the Chief Superintendent of Police (Traffic), Hong Kong Police Force (Ch Supt of Police (Traffic)) advised that under the existing manning ratio, one Police officer was required to handle some 150 cases per month. He highlighted in particular the effort and time required in verifying the drivers' identities in some 80% of the offences where the owners and the offending drivers were different persons. He also pointed out that of the additional staff required, some were clerical staff. Moreover, there were only some 20 working days per month for each Police staff as they had to take leave/day-off and they also had other duties to perform. He stressed that the need for additional Police staff had been ascertained after a careful review of the relevant work procedures and pointed out that whilst the use of computer equipment had been effective in detecting offences, sufficient manpower would still be required to take out prosecution.
45. Mr LAU Kong-wah was not convinced of the Administration's explanation and maintained his view that the need for additional staff had arisen from low productivity. He stated that he had no objection to the non-recurrent cost required for the project but urged the Administration to review whether the estimated recurrent cost, in particular staff cost, was justified. In this connection, the Chairman recapitulated that the issues of concern included whether experienced Police officers should take up clerical tasks as outlined in the discussion paper and their level of productivity.
|46. In response, DS/Tsy assured members that the estimated recurrent costs were only the ceilings and the Finance Bureau would examine in conjunction with the Police the level of recurrent costs required in the annual baseline exercise, taking account of the need to economise.
47. Referring to existing enforcement devices such as laser guns, Mr Andrew CHENG commented that they were problem-prone and he enquired whether the Administration would plan to replace these devices with the more reliable digital speed enforcement cameras in the long run.
48. Acknowledging Mr CHENG's concern, Ch Supt of Police (Traffic) said that the Police would hope to set up the digital speed enforcement cameras at all new highways and ultimately, to replace all existing devices with the cameras in question. He nevertheless pointed out that the main purpose of the new device was to deter drivers from speeding rather than to step up prosecution.
49. On the phased implementation of the expanded scheme, Mr CHAN Kam-lam enquired about the feasibility of deploying all the eight camera units, instead of only two, at the 12 camera sites in Phase 1 due for completion by December 2000. He considered it more efficient to deploy all the available cameras in Phase 1 which would also enhance the deterrent effect.
50. In response, the Assistant Commissioner for Transport (AC for T) advised that the 60 camera sites in question would be set up at different locations throughout the territory in phases. It was technically feasible to deploy all eight camera units at the 12 camera sites under Phase 1 but it would mean advancing the purchase of the equipment and front loading the cash flow of the project. He also informed members that deploying eight cameras at 60 sites as proposed was in line with overseas practice where the ratio of deployment ranged from 1:5 to 1:10.
|51. In reply to the Chairman's further enquiry on whether all the 60 sites could be prepared in Phase 1, AC for T said that it would not be possible to complete all 60 sites in Phase 1 but noting members' concern, he advised that the Administration would try its best to expedite the implementation schedule. In this connection, the Chairman requested the Administration to provide further information on its revised schedule after the meeting.
52. Expressing support for the proposal, Mr LEE Wing-tat also considered it desirable to deploy all available cameras at the first stage. In reply to his enquiry, Ch Supt of Police (Traffic) confirmed that the cameras set up along Tolo Highway would be concealed from sight.
53. Mr LEE Kai-ming supported the proposal. Noting that the Police issued on average about 200 000 fixed penalty tickets/summonses annually for speeding offences, he sought information on when the cost for expanding the speed enforcement camera system could be recovered as a result of implementation of the system which would be more effective in offence detection. For members' reference, Ch Supt of Police (Traffic) advised that in the United Kingdom where similar systems had been in place for several years, the costs could be recovered in one to three years. From the fifth year onwards, a return of 5 to 30 times was achieved.
54. Dr Raymond HO expressed strong support for the proposal and sought further information on the training to be provided to staff. Whilst advising that training would be provided to Police staff, Ch Supt of Police (Traffic) said that the Administration was looking into the possibility of amending the relevant legislation so as to place the onus of proof on car owners. This would reduce the work involved in identifying offending drivers and hence, reduce the need for additional manpower.
55. On whether the speed limits of the highways where the additional camera units would be positioned had been raised, Ch Supt of Police (Traffic) advised that the speed limits of Tuen Mun Highway and Fanling Highway had been raised from 70 kilometres per hour (km/h) to 80 km/h, that of North Lantau Highway had been raised from 100 km/h to 110 km/h, while the speed limit of Island Eastern Corridor remained at 70 km/h due to technical constraints.
56. The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 6 - FCR(1999-2000)38
CAPITAL WORKS RESERVE FUND
HEAD 708 - CAPITAL SUBVENTIONS AND MAJOR SYSTEMS AND EQUIPMENT
‥ New Subhead "Expansion of Red Light Camera System"
57. Responding to Mr Albert HO's concern about the offence to be charged for red light jumping, Ch Supt of Police (Traffic) advised that normally, fixed penalty tickets would be issued to the offending drivers. The more serious charge of careless/reckless/dangerous driving would only be taken out if there was sufficient evidence to substantiate the offence. Members also noted that in such cases, the car owner would be required by law to provide information on the identity of the offending driver. Ch Supt of Police (Traffic) also confirmed in reply to the Chairman that the offence of red light jumping would carry penalty points.
58. Dr Raymond HO expressed strong support for the proposal and was concerned that more such cameras should be installed to deter drivers from red light jumping which jeopardized the safety of other drivers and pedestrians. He reiterated his concern raised at the Transport Panel that franchised buses were seldom prosecuted. In response, Ch Supt of Police (Traffic) re-affirmed that prosecution would be taken out on all offending vehicles, irrespective of their type.
59. Referring to recent developments in traffic navigation systems, Mrs Sophie LEUNG asked whether the proposed installations would be compatible with the development of such systems in future. In reply, AC for T advised that the Transport Department was still studying the feasibility of traffic navigation system which might require the installation of certain transmission and reception devices near the roads. He confirmed that the present proposal of installing additional red light cameras was unrelated to the development of a traffic navigation system.
|60. In reply to the Chairman, AC for T undertook to review the implementation schedule of the expanded system with a view to advancing the deployment of the camera units.
61. The Committee approved the proposal.
62. The Committee was adjourned at 5:10 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat