11 January 1999
Legislative Council Panel on Welfare Services
Proposed Amendments to the
Volunteer and Naval Volunteer Pensions Ordinance
This paper informs Members of the Administration's proposal to streamline the annual procedures required to adjust the pension rates payable under the Volunteer and Naval Volunteer Pensions Ordinance and to allow the new rates to take effect retrospectively.
The Volunteer and Naval Volunteer Pensions Ordinance
2. The Ordinance was enacted in 1950 to provide for the payment of pensions, gratuities or other allowances in respect of the death, disablement or sickness of members of the two volunteer forces1 who fought in the defence of Hong Kong during the Second World War. Individual rates are specified in Schedules 3 to 8 of the Ordinance. At present, there are 70 beneficiaries receiving around $3.9 million per month.
Mechanism for Rate Revision
3. Pensions payable under the Ordinance are adjusted by the Secretary for Health and Welfare by order, under section 35 of the Ordinance, at a rate consistent with that of the civil service pension increase, made by the Chief Executive under section 4 of the Pensions (Increase) Ordinance.
4. The current mechanism involves a separate legislative process to provide for the same adjustment as is applied to civil service pensions. We propose therefore to simplify current procedures by establishing a formal link between adjustments to the Volunteer and Naval Volunteer pensions and the civil service pension increase. Under the proposal, once an increase in the civil service pension has been made, adjustments to the rates of Volunteer and Naval Volunteer pensions would be made by the Secretary for Health and Welfare by order in the Gazette. Since these adjustments do not involve any change in policy, we propose to make it clear in the Ordinance, that the order is not subsidiary legislation.
Retrospective Effect of the Pensions Increase
5. The new rates for civil service pensions normally take effect on 1 April, although the decision on the new rates is often not made until sometime later. The power for the new rates to take retrospective effect (on 1 April) is given under section 4(1C) of the Pensions (Increase) Ordinance. This enables the difference between the new pension, and the pension already paid, to be given to beneficiaries. We propose to amend the Volunteer and Naval Volunteer Pensions Ordinance to give similar effect.
6. The relevant veterans' associations, namely the Royal Hong Kong British Regiment (Hong Kong and China Branch), the Hong Kong Ex-Prisoners of War Association, the Royal Hong Kong Regiment The Volunteers Association, and the World War II Veteran Association have been informed and have no objection to the proposals.
THE WAY FORWARD
7. A Bill to amend the Ordinance is being prepared. Subject to the approval of the Chief Executive in Council, we intend to introduce the Bill to the Legislative Council in March 1999.
Health and Welfare Bureau
1 These two volunteer forces are the Hong Kong Naval Volunteer Force and the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps.