LC Paper No. FC41/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/F/1/2
Finance Committee of the Legislative Council
Minutes of the sixth meeting
held at the Legislative Council Chamber
on Friday, 16 October 1998, at 2:30 pm
Members present :
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP (Chairman)
Hon CHAN Kam-lam (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Kenneth TING Woo-shou, JP
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon LEE Kai-ming, JP
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Hon NG Leung-sing
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
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 CHAN Kwok-keung
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, 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, JP
Members absent :
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Martin LEE Chu-ming, SC, JP
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Dr Hon LUI Ming-wah, JP
Hon Margaret NG
Hon Christine LOH
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting, 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 Joseph Y T LAI
- Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mrs Margaret CHAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Ms Susanna CHEUNG
- Assistant Director of Education
- Mr Allan CHOW
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport
- Mr Alan LUI, JP
- Assistant Commissioner for Transport
- Mr FAN Ho-chuen
- Project Manager, Electrical and Mechanical Services Department
Staff in attendance :
- Ms Pauline NG
- Assistant Secretary General 1
- Miss Polly YEUNG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3
- Ms Sarah YUEN
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1)4
Item No. 1 - FCR(98-99)32
RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE ESTABLISHMENT SUBCOMMITTEE MADE ON 16 SEPTEMBER 1998
The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 2 - FCR(98-99)33
RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE PUBLIC WORKS SUBCOMMITTEE MADE ON 23 SEPTEMBER 1998
2. The Committee approved the proposal.
Item No. 3 - FCR(98-99)34
HEAD 40 - EDUCATION DEPARTMENT
‥ Subhead 300 Code of Aid for primary schools
‥ Subhead 305 Code of Aid for secondary schools
‥ Subhead 320 Code of Aid for special schools
3. Whilst agreeing in principle to the disbursement of a special recurrent Furniture and Equipment (F&E) Grant to all aided schools, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong queried the disparities in the proposed rates of grant between primary schools and secondary schools and between whole-day primary schools and bi-sessional primary schools. He pointed out that the proposed rate of $2,000 per class per annum for secondary schools had doubled that of $1,000 for whole-day primary schools. The $700 per class for each session of a bi-sessional primary school would become an aggregate of $1,400 per class which was higher than the per class rate of $1,000 per class for whole-day primary schools. Mr CHEUNG stressed that the disparity would become a disincentive for bi-sessional primary schools to convert to whole-day schools.
4. In response, the Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower(DS/EM) advised that in determining the respective rate of grant for primary and secondary schools, the Administration had considered the different operational and curricular needs of primary and secondary schools. He further referred members to the respective cost of about $9 million and $4.5 million to cover the full F&E cost of a new aided secondary school and primary school to be borne by a school sponsoring body and pointed out that the former cost also doubled the latter.
5. Mr SZETO Wah opined that determining the rates of recurrent F&E Grant for secondary and primary schools on the basis of the ratio of their initial one-off F&E costs was broadbrush and over-simplified. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong considered that the proposed rates of grant lacked a sound and scientific basis. Whilst he had no objection to the proposed rates for secondary and special schools, he suggested that the proposed rates for primary schools should be re-examined with the Administration at the Education Panel.
6. In this connection, DS/EM stressed that apart from the said one-off costs, the Administration had also taken into account the higher F&E needs of secondary schools as most of them offered 16 subjects while primary schools offered only 7 subjects. The nature of certain secondary school subjects such as design & technology and domestic science, and the need for special laboratories and audio-visual facilities would require more expensive F&E items. To provide greater flexibility to schools in its use of the grant, DS/EM pointed out that the grant would be disbursed in the form of a lump sum based on the number of operating classes of the school concerned.
7. On the differential rates of grant for bi-sessional primary schools and whole-day primary schools, DS/EM and the Assistant Director of Education explained that since the same classroom and F&E items in a bi-sessional school were shared by two classes, they would be subject to greater wear and tear, depreciation and higher maintenance costs. Therefore, the Administration considered a higher rate of F&E Grant for bi-sessional schools appropriate. Some members disagreed and pointed out that as most whole-day primary schools were new schools operating 30 classes and equipped with new and costly facilities, their F&E needs were high as well.
8. In reply to a member's enquiry about the existing non-recurrent subsidy for purchasing F&E items, DS/EM confirmed that all aided schools, irrespective of whether they were old or new, were eligible to apply for the said subsidy from the Education Department (ED) if their recurrent grant was insufficient to meet their F&E needs. He advised that most of these applications had come from secondary schools and had been approved by the ED. For the 1998-99 school year, the average amount of subsidy approved for an aided secondary school and primary school was in the region of $200,000 and $50,000 to $60,000 respectively.
|9. In view of members' queries and concerns, DS/EM said that the Administration would withdraw the item for further discussion with the Education Panel and re-submit its proposal to the Finance Committee in due course. Noting a member's concern on whether the proposed rate of grant for special schools was adequate, the Chairman advised that the Administration should also provide full justification on all the proposed rates of grant to the Panel. He also requested the Panel to invite non-Panel members to join the discussion of this item.
10. The Deputy Secretary for the Treasury withdrew the item.
Item No. 4 - FCR(98-99)35
CAPITAL WORKS RESERVE FUND
HEAD 708 - CAPITAL SUBVENTIONS AND MAJOR SYSTEMS AND EQUIPMENT
‥ New Subhead "Upgrading of environmental monitoring systems in Lion Rock Tunnel, Aberdeen Tunnel, Shing Mun Tunnels and Tseung Kwan O Tunnel"
11. Whilst supporting the proposal, some members questioned the late start of the upgrading of the environmental monitoring systems in the four Government tunnels. In response, the Project Manager, Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (PM/E&MSD) advised that the relevant "Practice Note on Control of Air Pollution in Vehicle Tunnels" (the Practice Note) setting out requirements on environmental monitoring was only issued by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) in 1995 and the necessary equipment to measure the air quality parameter of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) was only available recently.
12. In reply to members' enquiry on the progress of compliance with the standards stipulated in the relevant legislation enacted in June 1997 by the Cross Harbour Tunnel (CHT), Eastern Harbour Tunnel (EHT) and Tate's Cairn Tunnel (TCT), the Administration provided the following information:
- The TCT was required to meet the legal standards by 1 May 1999. Two ventilation blocks were under construction in Diamond Hill and Shatin for completion by April 1999;
- a consultancy study on the CHT was under way and the necessary NO2 analyzer would be purchased by 1 March 1999 to enable CHT to monitor more effectively environmental standards in the tunnel; and
- the EHT was already equipped with the necessary NO2 analyzer.
13. Noting that the proposed upgrading works for the four Government tunnels would only be completed by April 2000, some members were concerned about the relatively long time taken by Government tunnels to comply with the standard requirements as compared to the aforesaid private tunnels. PM/E&MSD, in response, explained that unlike private operators, the Government had to conduct feasibility studies on all the four Tunnels in question and go through tendering procedures. Moreover, the upgrading covered the entire system which also comprised computer installations for reading, analysis and transmission of real-time data. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (PAS/T) nevertheless assured members that the Transport Bureau and Transport Department (TD) would work closely with the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department to expedite the upgrading project.
|14. On the dissemination of air quality data of the four Government tunnels, the Administration advised that each tunnel operator would send the collected data on a monthly basis to the TD which would in turn forward them to the EPD for further analysis. In this regard, the Assistant Commissioner for Transport (AC/T) agreed to consider a member's suggestion of releasing the air quality data for the public's reference.
15. As regards the air quality in the four Government vehicle tunnels, PAS/T confirmed that the concentration level of air pollutants inside the Lion Rock Tunnel, Shing Mun Tunnels and Tseung Kwan O Tunnel had not exceeded the limits prescribed by the EPD. In the case of the Aberdeen Tunnel (ABT), under the exceptional circumstances where there was serious congestion inside the tunnel with car speed of less than 10 km per hour, the visibility level would not meet the EPD requirements. At present, the operator would deal with the situation by the traffic management measure of regulating the entry of vehicles into the ABT.
16. In this connection, PM/E&MSD supplemented that apart from the ABT where the air quality parameter of visibility (VI) had exceeded the EPD limit, the air quality of the other three Government vehicle tunnels was within acceptable limits. Although falling short of the latest requirement set out in the Practice Note, the Shing Mun Tunnels were capable, inter alia, of measuring the parameter of Carbon Monoxide at 15-minute intervals. He further confirmed that at present, NO2 data could only be obtained by converting Nitric Oxide data using a formula prescribed by the EPD.
|17. On the technical aspect, PM/E&MSD advised, in reply to a member, that improvement to the ventilation system was a more effective measure to improve VI than water sprinkling. At the member's request, AC/T undertook to obtain from the tunnel operator information on incidents of regulated entry into the ABT during the past few years due to an unacceptable level of air quality inside the tunnel.
18. A member pointed out that as the franchise for the CHT would expire in August 1999, it might be more cost-effective for the Government to undertake the necessary improvement works in lieu of the CHT because upon expiry of its franchise, the CHT would have to be duly compensated for the depreciation of its capital investments. PAS/T noted the member's concern but advised that as the CHT had already commenced improvement works, the Administration would not take over such works.
19. To achieve an overall improvement in air quality, some members suggested that the Administration should seek to improve the ventilation systems of the tunnels. Noting the Administration's estimate that about $100 million would be required if the ventilation system of the ABT was to be improved, some members raised query as the respective costs for the CHT and the TCT were only about $2.5 million and $40 million. PM/E&MSD in reply remarked that the possible high costs were mainly due to the envisaged need to carry out a lot of civil works at the ABT entrance.
20. In this connection, Mr Edward HO stressed that the upgrading of the monitoring systems would not solve the air quality problem in the tunnels. The Administration should consider introducing long-term improvement measures which might even be more cost-effective than upgrading equipment on a piecemeal basis. He suggested that the Administration should withdraw the present item and submit another proposal to include improvements to the ventilation systems of the tunnels as well. He indicated that he would object to the present proposal as it only sought to upgrade the environmental monitoring systems.
21. The Chairman put the item to the vote and the Committee approved the proposal.
22. The Committee was adjourned at 3:45 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
27 November 1998