LC Paper No. CB(2) 308/98-99

Ref : CB2/H/5

House Committee of the Legislative Council

Minutes of the 8th meeting
held at the Legislative Council Chamber
at 3:20 pm on Friday, 18 September 1998

Members present :

Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP (Chairman)
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Kenneth TING Woo-shou, JP
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Martin LEE Chu-ming, SC, JP
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Dr Hon LUI Ming-wah, JP
Hon NG Leung-sing
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Margaret NG Ngoi-yee
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, 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 Bernard CHAN
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
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 Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Members absent :

Hon LEE Kai-ming, JP
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-Hong
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting, JP

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Justina LAM
Clerk to the House Committee

Staff in attendance :

Mr Ricky C C FUNG, JP
Secretary General

Mr Jimmy MA, JP
Legal Adviser

Mr LAW Kam-sang, JP
Deputy Secretary General

Mr LEE Yu-sung
Senior Assistant Legal Adviser

Ms Pauline NG
Assistant Secretary General 1

Assistant Secretary General 3

Miss Anita HO
Assistant Legal Adviser 2

Miss Connie FUNG
Assistant Legal Adviser 3

Mr Arthur CHEUNG
Assistant Legal Adviser 5

Mr KAU Kin-wah
Assistant Legal Adviser 6

Mrs Anna LO
Chief Assistant Secretary (Complaints)

Mr Simon WONG
Chief Public Information Officer (Acting)

Mr LAW Wing-lok
Chief Assistant Secretary (2)5

Mrs Betty LEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary (3)1

Miss Mary SO
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)8
I. Confirmation of the minutes of the 7th meeting held on 11 September 1998
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 259/98-99)

1. The minutes were confirmed.

II. Matters arising

Report by the Chairman on his meeting with the Chief Secretary for Administration (CS)

2. The Chairman said that he had informed CS that the House Committee had reached a consensus that an oral question should not contain more than three parts. He had also asked CS to remind Bureau Secretaries to be succinct in their replies to Members' questions.

III. Business arising from previous Council meetings

(a) Legal Service Division's report on bills referred to the House Committee in accordance with Rule 54(4)

Hotel Accommodation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 1998
(LC Paper No. LS 29/98-99)

3. Referring to the paper, the Legal Adviser said the main objective of the Bill was to amend the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance, the Hotel Proprietors Ordinance and the Hotel Accommodation Tax Ordinance in order to clarify the scope of the definitions of "hotel" and "guesthouse". The Bill also proposed certain technical amendments to the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance to improve the operation of the licensing scheme.

4. The Chairman said that the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners Limited and the Tourist Guest Houses Federation of Hong Kong Limited had expressed certain views. Members of the Panel on Home Affairs had also raised the question of whether service apartments and holiday flats should be covered by the Bill. The Chairman suggested and members agreed to form a Bills Committee to study the Bill. The following members agreed to join the Bills Committee: Mr James TO Kun-sun, Mr Edward HO Sing-tin, Mr Howard YOUNG and Mr HO Sai-chu.

5. The Chairman said that in the past, it had been the agreed practice between Members and the Administration that the relevant Panels would be consulted on major legislative proposals prior to their introduction into the Council. He invited members' view as to whether the practice should continue.

6. Miss Margaret NG and Mr Martin LEE suggested that the previous practice should be maintained. Members agreed. The Chairman said that he would reflect members' views to CS. Chairman

(b) Legal Service Division's report on subsidiary legislation tabled in Council on 16 September 1998 (gazetted on 11 September 1998)
(LC Paper No. LS 32/98-99)

7. The Legal Adviser said that the report covered two items of subsidiary legislation gazetted on 11 September 1998. Referring to the Telecommunication (Mobile Earth Stations) (Exemption) Order made under the Telecommunication Ordinance, the Legal Adviser explained that the Order sought to grant exemption in respect of the possession, establishment, maintenance, use, import and export of mobile earth stations.

8. As regards the Rectification of Errors (No. 3) Order 1998 made under the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance, the Legal Adviser said that the Order sought to rectify a number of typographical errors appearing in various ordinances and subsidiary legislation. No change to the effect of any of the Ordinances and subsidiary legislation concerned was intended by this Order.

9. The Chairman said that the deadline for amendment to the above subsidiary legislation was 14 October 1998. He added that extension of the scrutiny period to 21 October 1998 should be avoided as the Council meeting on that day would be devoted to the debate on Motion of Thanks.

10. Members did not raise any queries on the two items of subsidiary legislation.

IV. Business for the Council meeting on 30 September 1998

(a) Questions
(LC Paper No. CB(3) 261/98-99)

11. Members noted the three new questions (Nos. 3, 5 and 16) set out in the paper.

12. Dr LUI Ming-wah said that he would withdraw the notice of his oral question (No. 4) as he would be out of town on 30 September 1998.

13. In reply to Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung, Assistant Secretary General 3 said that questions covering the same subject matter but of different contents could be asked. Where questions were of similar content, they would be dealt with in accordance with relevant provisions in the Rules of Procedure and the House Rules. For instance, Rule 25(1)(l) of the Rules of Procedure stipulated that a question which had been fully answered should not be asked again during the same session. House Rule 5(c) stated that where two or more Members had put in questions of similar content, the Members concerned should try to reach an agreement on who would ask the question, failing which the Member who had an earlier slot would ask the question.

(b) Bills - First and Second Readings

(i) Bankruptcy (Amendment) Bill 1998

(ii) Lifts and Escalators (Safety) (Amendment) Bill 1998

14. The Chairman said that the two Bills would be introduced into the Council on 30 September 1998 and considered by the House Committee on 23 October 1998.

(c) Government motion

Resolution under section 7 of the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (Cap. 59) - to be moved by Secretary for Education and Manpower (LC Paper No. LS 33/98-99)

15. Referring to the paper, the Legal Adviser said that the resolution sought the Council's approval for the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Confined Spaces) Regulation made by the Commissioner for Labour on 15 September 1998 under section 7 of the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance. The purpose of the new Regulation was to overcome the enforcement difficulties under the existing legislation and to provide better protection for workers in a confined space. To allow time for the industry to make the necessary preparations and for the workers to be trained, the Administration had proposed a grace period of 12 months upon the enactment of the new Regulation before it was brought into effect.

16. The Chairman said that the Administration would brief the Panel on Manpower on 24 September 1998 on the new Regulation. Mr Andrew CHENG was of the view that the new safety measures set out in the new Regulation should be examined in detail. The Chairman suggested and members agreed to form a subcommittee to study the new Regulation. The following members agreed to join the subcommittee: Dr LEONG Che-hung, Mr HO Sai-chu, Miss Cyd HO Sau-lan, Mr Michael HO Mun-ka, Dr Raymond HO Chung-tai, Mr LEE Cheuk-yan, Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung and Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo.

17. The Chairman said that the Secretariat would request the Administration to withdraw the notice for moving the resolution at the Council meeting on 30 September 1998.

(d) Members' motions

(i) Motion on "Review of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority"

18. Members noted the wording of the motion to be moved by Mr Albert HO.

(ii) Motion on "Liberalization of the telecommunications and television markets"

19. Members noted the wording of the motion to be moved by Mr Fred LI.

20. The Chairman said that the deadline for giving notice of amendments, if any, to the above motions was 23 September 1998. The speaking time limits stipulated in rule 17(c) of the House Rules would apply.

V. Advance information on business for the Council meetings on 7 and 8 October 1998

(a) The Chief Executive's Policy Address - 7 October 1998

21. The Chairman said that the Council meeting on 7 October 1998 would be devoted to the Chief Executive's Policy Address.

(b) The Chief Executive's Question and Answer Session - 8 October 1998

22. The Chairman said that the Chief Executive would attend the Council meeting on 8 October 1998 from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm to answer Members' questions relating to the Policy Address.

23. Mr LEE Wing-tat said that the duration of the question and answer session on 8 October 1998 should be longer to enable more Members to ask questions. Mr Martin LEE echoed Mr LEE's view and suggested that the session be extended to two hours. Members agreed. The Chairman undertook to convey members' view to the Administration. Chairman

VI. Paper on Monitoring of issues relating to the Overall Economic Development of Hong Kong
(LC Paper No. CB(1) 181/98-99)

24. Referring to the paper, the Secretary General explained the options set out in paragraph 8 regarding how Members could monitor Government's overall economic development strategy in a more co-ordinated manner.

25. Several members said that they were in favour of broadening the terms of reference of an existing Panel to undertake the co-ordinating role, as proposed in option (c), because this would cause the minimum changes to the present committee structure.

26. A few of other members said that although they preferred the options of holding joint Panel meetings or conducting ad hoc briefings, they did not object to option (c).

27. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan said that although he also had no objection to option (c), he considered the establishment of a "Super" Panel to be more effective in carrying out the co-ordinating role in monitoring issues relating to the overall economic development of Hong Kong.

28. In summing up, the Chairman said that most members would not object to adopting option (c). The Chairman suggested and members agreed that a detailed proposal be prepared by the Secretariat for Members' consideration at the next meeting. He added that under Rule 77(2) of the Rules of Procedure, the revised terms of reference of the Panel, if agreed by the House Committee, would need to be approved by the Council. He further said that membership of the Panel would then be re-opened.

29. Mr James TIEN requested that the detailed proposal should set out clearly the division of work between the re-constituted Panel and the other two economy-related Panels.

VII. Reports

(a) Position report on Bills Committees/subcommittees
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 263/98-99)

30. The Chairman said that, including the Bills Committee and the subcommittee formed earlier at the meeting, there were now four Bills Committees and two subcommittees on subsidiary legislation.

(b) Report of the Parliamentary Liaison Subcommittee
(LC Paper No. CB(3) 262/98-99)

31. Mr Edward HO, Chairman of the subcommittee, reported that the subcommittee recommended that the ties which the Hong Kong legislature had established with the legislatures of Japan, Canada, Australia and the European Union should continue and that an additional friendship group with the parliamentarians of the Republic of Singapore should be set up. Members agreed.

32. Miss Emily LAU suggested that consideration should be given to establishing similar ties with other countries or territory such as Taiwan which had maintained a close relationship with the Special Administrative Region.

VIII. Any other business

(a) Report of the Subcommittee on Review of Allowances for Members of the Legislative Council

33. Miss Emily LAU, Chairman of the subcommittee, reported that the subcommittee had considered members' views expressed at the House Committee meeting on 4 September 1998 and proposed to change the subcommittee's name to "Subcommittee on Review of Operating Expenses for Members of the Legislative Council" in English and in Chinese. Members agreed. Miss LAU added that the proposal of providing an advance of operating funds to Members was approved by The Legislative Council Commission on 10 September 1998 and had been brought into effect.

34. Miss LAU further said that the subcommittee had proposed that -

  1. the space entitlement for Member's offices in public housing estates should be increased to 140m2 or up to 4 separate offices with a total area of up to 140 m2 in each constituency;

  2. the level of operating expenses reimbursement for Members should be raised to take into account increases in rent and manpower arising from an increase in space entitlement; and

  3. the use of the non-accountable travelling and entertainment allowance should be extended to cover employment of staff.

35. Mr Andrew WONG said that the Administration should review whether the operating expenses reimbursement for Members returned by geographical constituencies should be at the same level as that for Members returned by functional constituencies or the Election Committee.

(b) Lack of consultation with the public and the Panel on Housing before the introduction of the comprehensive means test for all prospective public housing tenants

36. Mr LEE Wing-tat, Chairman of the Panel on Housing, said that members of the Panel were dissatisfied that the Administration had not consulted the Panel and the public before the Housing Authority introduced a comprehensive means test for the prospective public rental housing tenants. Mr LEE suggested that the Chairman should write to the Chief Executive to express members' concern over the matter.

37. Mr CHENG Kai-nam said that in addition to writing to the Chief Executive, consideration could be given to moving a motion at a Council meeting to express regret that the Administration had failed to consult the public and the Panel on Housing before implementing the new policy. Mr James TO suggested that Members might consider introducing a member's bill to revoke the new policy.

38. Messrs LEE Cheuk-yan and SZETO Wah said that the Administration's failure to consult the legislature on the new policy in question was in breach of the Basic Law and seriously undermined the relationship between the executive authorities and the legislature.

39. Mrs Selina CHOW and Mr CHAN Kam-lam said that they did not consider that there was any breach of the Basic Law as the Housing Authority, in making the decision to introduce the comprehensive means test, had acted within its power. They agreed, however, that the Administration should have consulted the Council and the public before the implementation of the new policy.

40. In reply to Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung, the Legal Adviser said that it would be difficult to give a definitive answer on whether there was a breach of the Basic Law in this particular case.

41. Mr Edward HO pointed out that the Chairperson of the Housing Authority had never attended the meetings of the Panel on Housing of the former LegCo. The Secretary General said that the Chairperson of the Housing Authority was on the list of public officers designated by the Chief Executive under Article 62(6) of the Basic Law to attend meetings of the committees and subcommittees of the Council. Mrs Selina CHOW suggested that the Chairperson or other members of the Housing Authority should in future be invited to attend meetings of the Panel on Housing if Members saw the need.

42. Members agreed that the Chairman should write to the Chief Executive to express the House Committee's dissatisfaction over the matter and to remind the Administration to consult the Council on all important policy matters before their introduction.

(c) Review of 17 Ordinances binding on the Government but not on relevant PRC organs
(A letter from Hon Margaret NG dated 16 September 1998)
(Chinese version of the letter was tabled at the meeting and issued vide LC Paper No. CB(2) 320/98-99 on 22 September 1998)

43. Referring to her letter, Miss Margaret NG, Chairman of the Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services, said that the Panel had asked her to request the House Committee Chairman to bring the unsatisfactory state of affairs to the attention of CS and to request CS to advise on which Policy Bureau should be responsible for co-ordinating the review.

44. Miss NG added that she found it difficult to accept the Department of Justice's explanation that the role of the Department of Justice was merely to provide a legal analysis of the 17 ordinances to assist the relevant Policy Bureaux in conducting the review from a policy point of view, and that they were not in a position to advise the Panel on the progress of and the timeframe for completing the review. As the Panel would meet again on 20 October 1998 to discuss the matter, she hoped that CS could reply before the meeting of the Panel on 20 October 1998.

45. Members expressed support for the Panel's requests. The Chairman undertook to write to CS. Chairman

46. The meeting ended at 5:00 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
23 September 1998