CB(1) 1033/98-99(05)

(Letterhead of Legislative Councillor LAU Chin-Shek's Office)

15 March 1999

Ms Miriam LAU Kin-yee (Chairman) and other members, Transport Panel.

Dear Miriam and fellow members of the Transport Panel,

Mechanism for approving future ferry fare increase proposals

The Transport Panel has discussed the statutory procedure for determining fares of licensed ferry services on a number of occasions. As the Administration maintains that the Legislative Council is not empowered to approve future ferry fare increases, which is completely different from the understanding of the Legal Adviser of the Legislative Council, it shows that the Administration is deliberately depriving the Council of its inherent power to monitor ferry fares on behalf of the public.

The professional advice provided by the Legal Adviser of the Legislative Council is very clear: that the "notices" for determining ferry fare adjustments, very much the same as "orders" for determining fare adjustments of franchised ferry services in the past, are subsidiary legislation because such a "notice" relating to fares affects public interests. However, the Administration has been insisting on its own stance. As a result, the discussion on the issue has been dragging on for nearly half a year without reaching any consensus. And the new ferry licence will come into effect on 1 April 1999. It remains doubtful whether the interests of residents living in outlying islands can be adequately safeguarded by then. In fact, according to approved tenders submitted by operators of ferry services, these operators intend to introduce increases to certain items of ferry fares on 1 April 1999.

I think the Administration has the responsibility to act according to the requirements of subsidiary legislation and table future statutes on adjustment of ferry fares in the Legislative Council for deliberation. In this connection, I will move the following motion in the next meeting of the Transport Panel:

"That this Panel urges the Administration to follow the procedure of subsidiary legislation and table all future notices on the determination and adjustment of fares of licensed ferry services, including new licensed ferry services to be launched on 1st April 1999, for the scrutiny of the Legislative Council in the form of subsidiary legislation."

May I request members of the Panel to support the motion I am proposing to move in order to protect the Legislative Council's statutory power to monitor the Administration and to protect the interests of the public. Should you have any question or comment, please feel free to contact me.

LAU Chin-shek