LC Paper No. CB(2)1540/98-99
Ref : CB2/H/5
House Committee of the Legislative Council
Minutes of the 25th meeting
held in the Legislative Council Chamber
at 2:30 pm on Friday, 19 March 1999
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 LEE Kai-ming, 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 HUI Cheung-ching
Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
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
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon LAU Chin-shek, JP
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
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 Timothy FOK Tsun-ting, JP
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP
Hon FUNG Chi-kin
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Members absent :
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon Ambrose CHEUNG Wing-sum, JP
Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP
Clerk in attendance :
Staff in attendance :
- Mrs Justina LAM Clerk to the House Committee
I. Confirmation of the verbatim transcript of the special meeting held on 5 March 1999 and the minutes of the 24th meeting held on 12 March 1999
- 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
- Mr Ray CHAN
- Assistant Secretary General 3
- Ms Bernice WONG
- Assistant Legal Adviser 1
- Miss Anita HO
- Assistant Legal Adviser 2
- Mr Stephen LAM
- Assistant Legal Adviser 4
- Mr KAU Kin-wah
- Assistant Legal Adviser 6
- Mrs Anna LO Chief
- Assistant Secretary (Complaints)
- Miss Kathleen LAU
- Chief Public Information Officer
- Mrs Vivian KAM
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)5
- 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
(LC Papers No. CB(2) 1507 and CB(2) 1489/98-99)
1. The two sets of minutes were confirmed.II. Matters arising
(a) Report by the Chairman on his meeting with the Chief Secretary for Administration (CS)
2. The Chairman said that he had informed CS that individual Panels would closely monitor the progress of the year 2000 (Y2K) compliance exercise in Government and non-government organizations providing essential services falling within the purview of the respective Panels. CS was also informed that the House Committee would consider at a later stage whether a subcommittee needed to be formed to coordinate work in this regard.
3. The Chairman added that CS had emphasized that the Administration had accorded very high priority to the exercise. Particular attention would be given to the critical services, such as medical services, and other essential services. Apart from contingency planning, the Administration was working on the necessary publicity so that the general public would be more prepared for any problems that might arise.
4. Miss Emily LAU requested the Chairman to remind CS that she had once said, in response to the airport opening chaos, that the Administration would strive to perform better at future major projects.
5. Mr SIN Chung-kai said that individual Panels should provide the Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting (ITB Panel) with a list of the subject areas which they would monitor in the context of the Y2K compliance exercise. This would enable the ITB Panel to follow up on those subject areas falling outside the purview of any Panel. The Chairman said that members agreed at the last meeting that the respective Panels should discuss the Y2K compliance exercise within their policy areas and that the Secretariat should provide regular progress reports for Members' information.
(b) Report on acceptance of late membership for Bills Committees and Panels (Committee on Rules of Procedure)
(LC Paper No. CB(1)1008/98-99 )
6. Mrs Selina CHOW, Chairman of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, explained the proposed arrangements for considering applications for late membership of Bills Committees and Panels detailed in paragraphs 8 and 9 of the paper. Members expressed support for the proposed arrangements.
III. Business for the Council meeting on 31 March 1999
(LC Paper No. CB(3) 1359/98-99)
7. Members noted that 20 written questions had been scheduled.
(b) Bills - First and Second Readings
(i) Adaptation of Laws (No. 8) Bill 1999
(ii) Adaptation of Laws (No. 9) Bill 1999
(iii) Securities (Margin Financing) (Amendment) Bill 1999
(iv) Merchant Shipping (Local Vessels) Bill
(v) Shipping and Port Control (Amendment) Bill 1999
(vi) Merchant Shipping (Prevention and Control of Pollution) (Amendment) Bill 1999
(vii) Prevention of Bribery (Amendment) Bill 1999
(viii) Administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 1999
8. Members noted that the above eight Bills would be introduced into the Council on 31 March 1999 and considered by the House Committee on 16 April 1999.
(c) Bills - resumption of debate on Second Reading, Committee Stage and Third Reading
(i) Appropriation Bill 1999
(Response from the Administration)
9. The Chairman said that the Administration would respond to Members' speeches made in the debate on the 1999-2000 Budget.
(ii) Adaptation of Laws (No. 3) Bill 1998
10. The Chairman said that members agreed at the last meeting that the Second Reading debate on the Bill be resumed on 31 March 1999.
(d) Members' motion
11. The Chairman informed members that Mr LEE Cheuk-yan had given notice to move a motion at the Council meeting on 31 March 1999 to amend the Tax Exemption (1997 Tax Year) Order which was tabled in Council on 10 March 1999. He invited Mr LEE to explain the purpose of his proposed amendment.
12. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan said that the proposed amendment sought to impose an upper limit of $100,000 on the tax rebate of 10% of the amount of tax chargeable by way of property tax, salaries tax, profit tax or personal assessment for the 1997/98 assessment year.IV. Consultation Papers of the Committee on Rules of Procedure
(a) Arrangements for implementing the provisions under Article 79(7) of the Basic Law
(LC Paper No. CB(1) 1001/98-99 issued vide LC Paper No. 1002/98-99 on 12 March 1999)
13. Mrs Selina CHOW, Chairman of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, introduced the paper which detailed the Committee's proposals on the arrangements for implementing the provisions under Article 79(7) of the Basic Law relating to censuring a Member for misbehaviour or breach of oath. She said that given the seriousness and importance of the matter, members should study the proposals in detail and give their views to the Committee on or before 27 March 1999.
14. Miss Emily LAU asked whether the Committee would revert to the House Committee after the consultation exercise had been completed. Mrs CHOW responded that she would let the House Committee know the outcome of the consultation exercise. She hoped that members would support the Committee's proposals.
15. Miss Margaret NG echoed Mrs CHOW's appeal and said that the proposed arrangements were of a controversial nature and warranted detailed study by members.
16. The Legal Adviser added that a motion would need to be moved at a Council meeting for the Rules of Procedure to be amended to give effect to the proposed arrangements.
17. Mr Ronald ARCULLI asked whether members of an investigation committee who had not attended any of the previous meetings of the investigation committee, but who turned up at its last meeting at which the investigation committee would conclude its findings, would be allowed to vote. In his view, to allow such members to vote would be unfair to the Member under investigation.
18. Mrs CHOW responded that Mr ARCULLI's view, together with any other views or suggestions put forward by Members, would be considered carefully by the Committee.
(b) Order of Speaking in Motion Debates
(LC Paper No. CB(1) 1000/98-99 issued vide LC Paper No. 1002/98-99 on 12 March 1999)
19. Mrs Selina CHOW invited members to consider the Committee's views set out in paragraphs 7 to 11 of the paper and give their comments, if any, to the Committee on or before 27 March 1999.
20. The Chairman said that he would appeal to the Administration again for a public officer to speak immediately after the mover of a motion had moved the motion. He would also remind the Administration that under the current Rules of Procedure, Members could wait until the public officer had spoken before indicating their intention to speak.
21. Mr Ronald ARCULLI suggested that where the Administration had indicated that the public officer concerned would speak towards the end of a debate, the Administration should be asked to provide a copy of the public officer's speech beforehand so that Members would be aware of the Administration's position when they spoke. Miss Emily LAU was, however, of the view that Mr ARCULLI's suggestion was not practical.
22. Mr Fred LI said that the Administration should be asked to make it a standard practice that a public officer should speak both at the beginning and towards the end of a motion debate.
V. Second report of the Subcommittee on Review of the Operation of the LegCo Redress System
(LC Paper No. CP 1076/98-99)
23. The Chairman introduced the paper in his capacity as the Chairman of the subcommittee. He highlighted the divergent views of the subcommittee regarding whether the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance (the Ordinance) should be extended to cover meetings conducted under the Redress System. He added that personally he was in favour of the proposed extension as the immunities and privileges sought were no more than those conferred on Members at meetings of Panels and other committees of the Council.
24. Mr Andrew WONG said that the current Redress System with its inherent flexibility had worked well and should be retained. He further said that a complaint could be handled in a formal manner by the Council by way of a petition or motion. The complaint could also be referred to the relevant Panels for further discussion or a select committee could be formed, if considered appropriate.
25. Mr Martin LEE was of the view that the proposed extension of the immunities and privileges was necessary for the protection of freedom of speech. He added that Members attending meetings conducted under the Redress System were vulnerable to legal liability for defamation because Members were sometimes asked by deputations to give their personal views about the complaint in the presence of reporters. He saw no reasons why the Ordinance should not be extended to cover such meetings, particularly in view of the stipulation under Article 73(8) of the Basic Law that one of the functions of the Legislative Council was "to receive and handle complaints from Hong Kong residents".
26. Miss CHOY So-yuk said that duty roster Members needed not give an immediate response to a complaint. The complaint was simply heard and it would be taken up with the Administration afterwards. She therefore did not support the proposed extension of the Ordinance to meetings conducted under the Redress System.
27. Mr NG Leung-sing said that the existing mechanism for dealing with complaints had been operating smoothly and no Member had ever been sued over remarks or statements made at meetings conducted under the Redress System. He considered that if Members were accorded protection under the Ordinance at such meetings, Members would tend to be less restrained in making comments or statements which might cause undesirable effect to the matter under discussion.
28. Mr NG further said that extending the immunities and privileges conferred under the Ordinance to Members and public officers, but not to complainants, would cause the public to perceive that they were placed in an unfair situation.
29. Mr TSANG Yok-sing said that Members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) did not support the proposed extension of the Ordinance to meetings conducted under the Redress System. The DAB was also of the view that if the immunities and privileges were extended to the complainants as well, it might result in frivolous complaints or other abuses which would adversely affect the smooth operation of the Redress System.
30. Miss Margaret NG said that she could not see the need and justification for extending the Ordinance to cover meetings conducted under the Redress System. She added that the fact that Members enjoyed such immunities and privileges when attending meetings of Panels and other committees was not sufficient ground that they should enjoy the same for meetings conducted under the Redress System.
31. Mrs Sophie LEUNG echoed Miss NG's view and said that unlike the Panels and other committees of the Council which dealt with government policies and legislative proposals, the majority of cases handled under the Redress System involved individual complaints against decisions or actions of government bureaux and departments. Extending the immunities and privileges to meetings dealing with individual complaints would allow Members to express their personal views freely without the worry of incurring legal liabilities, but it would not be fair to the parties under accusation as they would not be present at such meetings to defend themselves.
32. Miss Cyd HO said that the proposed extension of immunities and privileges would serve to give protection against the possibility of legal proceedings being brought against Members for any comments or remarks made at meetings with complainants. She further said that Members were well aware of their responsibilities and would exercise self-discipline when expressing their views at such meetings.
33. The Chairman said that as members had divergent views, he suggested that the proposed extension of the Ordinance to cover meetings conducted under the Redress System be put to a vote. The result was 13 members voted in favour of the proposal and 34 members voted against. The Chairman added that as the proposal was not agreed to, the Redress System would continue to operate without the coverage of the Ordinance.
34. Members expressed support for the other recommendations of the subcommittee set out in paragraph 13(b) to (g) of the paper.
35. Referring to the proposal in paragraph 13(f) of the paper, Miss Margaret NG asked how a complainant's request to exclude a particular Member from a Duty Roster Members interview would be dealt with. Chief Assistant Secretary (Complaints) responded that the Member concerned would be informed of the complainant's request and it was up to the Member to decide whether he/she would attend the interview.
36. In reply to the Mr Andrew WONG's enquiry about the Complaints Division referring maladministration complaint cases to The Ombudsman for action, the Chairman said that the Complaints Division would advise the complainant concerned that his/her case would more appropriately be handled by The Ombudsman. However, if the complainant insisted that his/her case should be handled by the Complaints Division, his/her complaint would be handled by the Division.
37. Miss Emily LAU said that in considering the measures to be taken by the Legislative Council Secretariat under the Enhanced Productivity Programme, The Legislative Council Commission (the Commission) had suggested that Members should be encouraged to handle complaints from the public at their own offices directly and not to refer such cases to the Complaints Division. However, in the light of the Secretary General's explanation given at the special Finance Committee meeting held in the morning that there had been an increase in the number of cases referred by Members to the Complaints Division, she asked whether members should reach a consensus given the Commission's suggestion.
38. The Secretary General informed members that the number of cases referred by Members to the Complaints Division had increased considerably. In 1996-97, the number of cases referred by Members was 27 (or 3.6%) out of a total caseload of 742 handled by the Complaints Division. From July 1998 to February 1999, the number had risen to 81 (or 10.4%) out of a total caseload of 781.
39. Miss Margaret NG, Miss Christine LOH, Mr Martin LEE and Mr Albert HO were of the view that Members would usually deal with complaints about local issues, or matters affecting individual complainants, at their own offices, and only refer the more complex cases involving policy issues or involving several government departments to the Complaints Division for action.
40. Mr Andrew WONG asked how the statistics on cases referred by Members were compiled. He added that cases which involved a large number of people or which required follow-up actions by several government departments would be handled more effectively by the Complaints Division. He doubted whether such cases should be regarded as cases referred by Members.
41. Mr LEE Wing-tat said that in considering measures to be taken by the Secretariat under the Enhanced Productivity Programme, the Commission's role was to identify areas of activities where savings could be achieved. He added that some complainants lodged the same complaint to different complaint channels, resulting in duplication of efforts.
42. Miss Margaret NG suggested that the Secretariat should prepare a set of guidelines governing the referral of cases to the Complaints Division for Members' reference.
43. Mrs Selina CHOW said that the subcommittee should reconsider the issue on referral of cases by Members and submit a further report to the House Committee for consideration.
44. Miss Emily LAU said that it was important that this issue be addressed as further savings would need to be identified in the next few years under the Enhanced Productivity Programme.
45. Mr Martin LEE and Miss Christine LOH were of the view that the staffing resources in the Complaints Division should not be reduced further.
46. The Chairman said that it would be difficult to set out clear guidelines as to which cases should or should not be referred to the Complaints Division. He asked the Secretariat to provide a breakdown by type of the cases referred by Members.
(a) Position report on Bills Committees/subcommittees
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1494/98-99)
47. The Chairman said that there were 12 Bills Committees and three subcommittees in action. The Chairman further said that as there were vacant Bills Committee slots, the Bills Committee on Companies (Amendment) Bill 1999 would be activated.
(b) Report of the Bills Committee on Adaptation of Laws (No.2) Bill 1998
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1492/98-99)
48. Mr Andrew WONG, Chairman of the Bills Committee, introduced the paper which detailed the main deliberations of the Bills Committee. He said that he made a verbal report at the meeting on 26 February 1999 that the Administration had proposed to adapt all references to "Governor", in respect of making subordinate legislation and issuing administrative instruments, to "Chief Executive". The Chief Executive's obligation to consult Executive Council when making subordinate legislation would be unaffected by such an approach. Where such consultation had taken place, it would be reflected in the heading of the subsidiary legislation. The new approach would obviate the need to decide in the context of the adaptation of laws exercise the classification of a particular instrument as subordinate legislation or otherwise.
49. Mr WONG further said that with the exception of one member, the majority of members of the Bills Committee were in support of the Bill subject to the Committee Stage amendments (CSAs) to be moved by the Administration.
50. Members noted the Bills Committee's recommendation that the Second Reading debate on the Bill be resumed on 31 March 1999.
(c) Report of the Bills Committee on Adaptation of Laws (No.4) Bill 1998
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1493/98-99)
51. Mr Andrew WONG, Chairman of the Bills Committee, highlighted the main deliberations of the Bills Committee as detailed in the paper. He said that the Bills Committee supported the Bill subject to the CSAs to be moved by the Administration to address the Bills Committee's concern over certain issues.
52. Members noted the Bills Committee's recommendation that the Second Reading debate on the Bill be resumed on 31 March 1999.
(d) Report of the Bills Committee on Adaptation of Laws (No.6) Bill 1998
(LC Paper No. CB(1) 1014/98-99)
53. Referring to the paper, Miss Margaret NG, Chairman of the Bills Committee, said that the Bills Committee supported the Bill subject to the Committee Stage amendments to be moved by the Administration to delete the proposed amendment to the definition of "export" in section 2(1) of the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance and to change the adaptation of references to "Governor" under section 3(1) of the Tax Reserve Certificates Ordinance from "Chief Executive in Council" to "Chief Executive".
54. Miss NG added that the Bills Committee recommended that the Second Reading debate on the Bill be resumed on 31 March 1999.
VII. Any other business
(a) Meeting time of the Finance Committee
55. The Chairman said that there had been several occasions in the past few months where the Finance Committee (FC) meetings had lasted longer than expected, resulting in House Committee meetings starting very late. He had discussed the matter with Mr Ronald ARCULLI, Chairman of FC, informally and one possible option was to schedule FC meetings for Friday mornings.
56. Mr LEE Wing-tat expressed concern that changing the time for FC meetings to Friday mornings might create problems for Bills Committees and subcommittees to find time-slots for their meetings. He observed that overrunning of FC meetings had occurred only infrequently.
57. The Chairman asked the Secretariat to seek the views of the Administration and also to find out whether there were any regular meetings of Panels scheduled for Friday mornings.
(b) Arrangements for Council meetings
58. The Chairman said that he had discussed with the President the arrangements to be adopted for exceptionally long Council meetings. The President had told him that where it was known beforehand that a particular Council meeting would last for a long time, the meeting would normally be scheduled to take place on two consecutive days, as in the case of the Council meeting on the debate of the 1999-2000 Budget, which would be held on 24 and 25 March 1999. Where the President considered it necessary for the proper completion of the business on the agenda of a Council meeting to continue on another day, the President would suspend the meeting and order that the meeting would continue on such other day for that purpose under Rule 14(4) of the Rules of Procedure.
59. Miss Emily LAU was of the view that some clear guidelines should be set by the President regarding the circumstances under which she would suspend a Council meeting under Rule 14(4). Miss Margaret NG echoed Miss LAU's view.
60. Mr Ronald ARCULLI said that he thought that the House Committee had agreed that the Chairman should request the President to consider suspending the Council meeting on 10 March 1999 at an appropriate time and to order that the meeting would continue on the following day.
61. Dr YEUNG Sum said that he and the Chairman had reflected members' request to the President. However, the President had come to the view that the business on the agenda of the Council meeting on 10 March 1999 should be completed before adjourning the Council.
62. Mr LEE Kai-ming and Mr SZETO Wah suggested that the President should order a Council meeting to start at 9:00 am, if it was anticipated that the meeting would be a very long one. Mr SZETO Wah added that if the business on the agenda was not completed by midnight on that day, the President should suspend the meeting and order that the meeting would resume for the continuation of business on the following day.
63. The Chairman said that he would reflect members' views to the President.
64. The meeting ended at 3:58 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
24 March 1999