LC Paper No. CB(3) 138/98-99 (01)
Select Committee to inquire into the circumstances leading to
the problems surrounding the commencement of the operation of
the new Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok
since 6 July 1998 and related issues
Practice and Procedure
The Select Committee to inquire into the circumstances leading to the problems surrounding the commencement of the operation of the new Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok since 6 July 1998 and related issues (the Select Committee) was appointed by a resolution in the Legislative Council on 29 July 1998. Its chairman, deputy chairman and members were then appointed by the President on the same day.
2. A copy of the membership list of the select committee is in Appendix 1.
Term of office
3. In accordance with Rule 78(4) and (5) of the Rules of Procedure, a select committee shall be dissolved upon reporting to the Council or at the end of the session. If the committee is of the opinion that it will not be able to complete consideration of the matter before the end of the session, it shall so report to the Council.
4. In accordance with Rule 79(3) of the Rules of Procedure, in the event of the temporary absence of the chairman and deputy chairman, the select committee may elect a chairman to act during such absence.
5. In accordance with Rule 78(3) of the Rules of Procedure, the quorum of a select committee shall be one third of the members excluding the chairman, a fraction of a whole number being disregarded. The quorum of the Select Committee shall therefore be four members excluding the chairman. If the attention of the chairman is drawn to the fact that a quorum is not present, she shall direct that members be summoned. If after fifteen minutes have expired and the chairman is satisfied that a quorum is still not present, he/she shall adjourn the meeting.
Conduct of Meetings
6. In accordance with Rule 79(1) of the Rules of Procedure, the deliberations of a select committee shall be confined to the matter or matters referred to it by the Council.
7. In accordance with Rule 79(2) of the Rules of Procedure, meetings of the select committee shall be held in public unless the chairman otherwise orders in accordance with any decision of the select committee.
8. Examination of witnesses will be held in public. Exceptions to open hearing may be made, based on the individual circumstance on each occasion. During open hearings, members should only ask questions for the purpose of establishing the facts in connection with the inquiry. Members should not make comments or statements during these sessions.
9. The following procedures will apply in the conduct of public hearings:-
- At the beginning of each open session, the chairman will remind the public and the media that disclosure of the evidence given at the hearing outside the proceedings will not be protected under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance, Cap. 382. The media should obtain legal advice as to their legal responsibilities.
- Where it is decided that witnesses should be examined on oath, the chairman will administer the oath under section 11 of Cap. 382 at the beginning of the hearing. (The relevant section of Cap. 382 is in Appendix 2.)
- Facts will be established by questions and answers at formal sessions. The chairman will first set the context and then ask the witness an appropriate opening question, giving him an opportunity to state his case.
- Members wishing to ask questions should indicate by a show of hands, and will be called upon to ask questions in order. The chairman will exercise discretion to ensure, as far as possible, that every member has an equal opportunity to ask questions and that the hearing is conducted in a structured manner.
- The chairman will decide, after listening to members, on the relevance of a question or a piece of evidence to the scope of inquiry.
- Short follow-up questions may be allowed. Follow-up questions should be questions seeking further answers to the original questions or clarifications to the answers given. The chairman has the discretion to decide whether or not a question is a follow-up question.
- Unless excused under section 13(2) of Cap. 382 or justifiably claiming privilege under section 15, a witness summoned under section 9 of Cap. 382 must answer all lawful and relevant questions from the select committee. If he refuses to do so, he commits an offence under section 17 of Cap. 382 and will be liable to prosecution. (The relevant sections of Cap. 382 are in Appendix 2.)
- If the witness claims privilege from disclosure of evidence on grounds of public interest immunity, the procedure contained in the resolution concerning the usage and practice in regard to the determination of claims of public interest privilege (Appendix 3) will be followed.
- The privilege in Cap. 382 is available only within the context of the hearings. All Members, including non-select committee Members, should refrain from making comments outside the proceedings. Evidence given in camera should not be made public by any individual members privy to the hearing.
10. Internal deliberations may be conducted in camera to facilitate members to review the work plan and progress of the inquiry, agree on the logistical arrangements for the hearings, consider the evidence obtained and the draft report of the select committee.
11. In accordance with Rule 79(5) and (6) of the Rules of Procedure, divisions in a select committee shall be taken by the clerk to the select committee who shall ask each member separately how he/she wishes to vote and record the votes accordingly. Neither the chairman nor any other member presiding shall vote, unless the votes of the other members are equally divided in which case he/she shall have a casting vote.
Participation of Non-Select Committee Members
12. While meetings held in public shall be attended by members of the select committee, non-select committee Members may also be in attendance at these meetings, but may not address the meeting. If a non-select committee Member wishes to direct any questions to a witness, he/she should put his/her questions in writing and pass them to the chairman without interrupting the proceedings, and the chairman will decide whether or not to ask the questions.
13. Non-select committee Members will be required to withdraw from the meetings when the select committee conducts the hearing in camera or when the select committee holds its internal deliberations.
Minutes of proceedings of the Select Committee
14. In accordance with Rule 79(9) of the Rules of Procedure, the minutes of proceedings of the select committee shall record all proceedings on consideration of a report in the select committee and on every amendment proposed to the report, with a note of divisions, if divisions were taken in the select committee, showing the names of members voting in the division or declining to vote.
Report of the Select Committee
15. In accordance with Rule 79(10) of the Rules of Procedure, a report of the select committee, with the minutes of proceedings and the minutes of evidence, if evidence was taken, shall be laid on the Table of the Council by the chairman of the select committee.
Premature publication of evidence
16. In accordance with Rule 81 of the Rules of Procedure, the evidence taken before the select committee and documents presented to it shall not, except in the case of its meetings held in public, be published by a member of the select committee or by any other person before the select committee has presented its report to the Council. Any member of the select committee who fails to comply with this Rule may be admonished or reprimanded by the Council on a motion to that effect.
17. It has been suggested that members of the select committee or staff be asked to attend the inquiry sessions of the Commission of Inquiry on the New Airport. If members agree to this suggestion, consideration should be given to the way forward, which could be of two alternatives, as follows:
- the select committee to proceed with its own work/inquiry in parallel with the Commission of Inquiry; members/staff representing the select committee to attend the inquiry sessions of the Commission of Inquiry and make report to the select committee as soon as practicable after each inquiry session; or
- the select committee to withhold its formal inquiry for a period it considers appropriate; in the meantime, members/staff representing the select committee to attend the inquiry sessions of the Commission of Inquiry and make report to the select committee on a regular basis.
In respect of either one of these alternatives, consideration should also be given to the objective of the watching brief and the duties of the members/staff concerned.
Legislative Council Secretariat
29 July 1998