LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1683/95-96
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref :CB1/BC/4/95/2

Bills Committee on Buildings (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 1995

Minutes of Meeting held on Thursday, 23 May 1996 at 8:30 a.m. in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present:
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing
Member Absent:
    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, OBE, JP
Public Officers Attending:
    Mr Trevor Keen
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
    Dr Y L CHOI
    Director of Buildings
    Mr CHENG Wei-dart
    Deputy Director of Buildings
    Mr Edward LOK Che-leung
    Assistant Director of Buildings (Legal & Management)
    Mr A N Watson-Brown
    Senior Assistant Law Draftsman
Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA)

    Mr Dennis LAU Wing-kwong
    Mr LAM Wo-hei
Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE)
    Mr Barry Stubbings
    Dr Robert Kennard
    Mr C M WONG
Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS)

I. Confirmation of minutes of previous meetings

(LegCo Papers Nos. CB(2)1274, 1200, 1316, CB(1)1432 and 1435/95-96)

The minutes of meetings held on 25 March, 3, 18, 25 April and 2 May 1996 were confirmed.

II. Meeting with HKIA, HKIE, HKIS, REDA, HKCA and the Administration

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1463/95-96)

Mr Trevor Keen briefly took members through the paper which outlined the Administration’s latest proposals with regard to the Buildings (Amendment)(No.3) Bill 1995 (the Bill). He stressed that these proposals were subject to the endorsement of the Executive Council.

Regarding the three-tier sanction system, Mr Keen stated that there would be a leading period of about one year to have the guidelines and code of practice in place. The administrative warning and disciplinary provisions for the more serious cases would take effect upon enactment of the legislation. As for criminal sanction, this would not be enforced until after the leading period. The Building Authority (BA) would take a more active role in examining the supervision plans submitted by the building professionals during this period.

At the early stage following the enactment of the Bill, the Administration would be relying on administrative warnings rather than disciplinary provisions to ensure adherence to the supervision system. This arrangement would be mentioned in the speech to be delivered by the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands at the resumption of Second Reading Debate on the Bill.

Supervision Plans and Role of Authorised Person

In response to Mr Edward HO’s query about the Administration’s proposal on the requirement for authorised persons (AP) to submit outline supervision plans (OSP) to ensure the compatibility of the plans prepared by the registered structural engineers (RSE), registered general building contractors and/or registered specialist contractors (RGBC/RSC), Dr Y L CHOI made the following points :

(a) As a coordinator, the AP should be responsible for ensuring that the different plans submitted were compatible and consistent with each other and that they would cover the complete construction process.

(b) A management system approach which would provide safety assurance should be adopted as the basis for formulating the site supervision plans. The system would comprise of two parts, namely :

(i) the OSP which would delineate the relationship among different parties to ensure the completeness of the coverage of the subsequent supervision plans; and

(ii) the detailed supervision plans prepared by the different parties which would form an integral part of the supervision system. These plans would set out the reporting structure, the duties of different persons, the manpower required and their qualifications.

Mr Edward HO was particularly concerned about the role of the AP at the time of submission of the OSP. He pointed out that under current practice, the RSE was responsible for all the design and structural aspects of a building project. The AP as a coordinator had neither the responsibility nor the expertise to assess the RSE in carrying out these duties. In reply, Mr Keen explained that it was not the intention of the Bill to off-load the professional responsibility of other parties to the AP. The professional responsibility would rest with the person who prepared the supervision plans. Dr CHOI added that the AP was not required to ensure the accuracy of the supervision plans submitted by individual parties. He stressed that the AP’s role was to ensure the compatibility and completeness of the supervision plans. At the approval stage of the general building plans, the AP, as a works coordinator, would make a proposal as to the class of supervision required by reference to the guidelines/code of practice, giving reasons for the proposal.

Mr LAM Wo-hei referred members to the earlier submission entitled "Explanatory Statement on Supervision Plans" by the HKIA, HKIE and HKIS which detailed the management structure, the respective duties of the professional bodies and the reporting system. Mr LAM was concerned if the document could satisfy the requirements of the OSP. In response, Dr CHOI stated that the document could fulfill broadly the requirements of the OSP. The details required would be set out more clearly in the code of practice. The OSP would need to specify how the management system would cover the critical activities and the roles of different parties in supervision these activities.

Mr LAM Wo-hei pointed out that as each professional party was held responsible for the content of his supervision plan, the AP should not have been held responsible for the compatibility and completeness of the supervision plans. He also failed to see the need for the OSP at the early planning stage. He informed that in his earlier meetings with the Administration, he had requested that Government should, at the plan approval stage, specify the class of supervision. A compromise was then reached with the Administration whereby the AP would suggest and recommend their plans to BA for endorsement at the appropriate plan approval stage. According to Mr LAM , the idea of the OSP was not raised at the meetings with the Administration. The professionals were concerned about the emphasis placed on the OSP and the details being associated with it. If plans were to be submitted, these should be in the form as outlined in the joint statement made by the professional institutions.

In reply, Mr Keen stated that the OSP was an administrative arrangement that made it practicable for separate submission by AP/RSE/RC. If professionals had problems with the OSP, these could be worked out later. The requirements of the OSP and other management systems could be further reviewed, even after the enactment of the legislation. Members and the professionals could play a monitory role in formulating the code of practice. The issue could be further followed up at meetings of the LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works and at other ad hoc meetings.

Criminal Sanction

Mr Edward HO was concerned whether a professional who was acquitted of a charge because of insufficient evidence would be subject to disciplinary action. In reply, Mr A N Watson-Brown stated that it would be difficult if not impossible to take disciplinary proceedings against a person who had been acquitted by the courts. Disciplinary action might be taken in cases where the charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence or in cases where the prosecution action had not been taken against the right person.

Order to Cease Work

Addressing the Chairman’s query about the type of material deviations which would lead to a cease work order, Dr CHOI explained that a cease work order would only be issued in situations where public safety or the safety of workers on site would be undermined by the continuation of the works. This would include situations where material deviations from a supervision plan would result in danger.

Minor Deviations

Undisplayed GraphicAdmin

As to the concern about minor deviations from a supervision plan, Mr Keen stated that these should be reported as soon as possible. The Administration would consider the need for a provision to set out the scope of permissible minor deviations.

Selective Auditing of Supervision Plans

Mr Edward HO was concerned that the selective auditing system of supervision plans might give rise to situations whereby plans which were not audited at the time of submission were later found not in compliance with the guidelines and code of practice.

In response, Mr Keen stated that in that event, the BA would make an urgent site visit to ensure that danger did not exist. The supervision plan would then be suitably altered to conform to the requirements. Should it be considered that danger would arise, a cease work order would be issued.

Mr Edward HO and Mr LAM Wo-hei had reservations in accepting the selective auditing system of supervision plans which was a total departure from the current practice under which the BA would go through all the plans before granting a consent. They pointed out that as far as safety was concerned, the BA and the professionals in the industry had all along been in partnership.

Mr Keen stated that if all the supervision plans had to be approved before consent to commence works was given, the BA would have to accept the liability in case things went wrong. As such, a very detailed supervision plan had to be submitted at the plan approval stage. This would have serious time and resource implications on the project works. The idea of a detailed supervision plan was therefore dropped. As an alternative, the Administration agreed to formulate a code of practice and a set of guidelines which would classify works according to the complexity, scale and nature of works. By reference to the guidelines, the AP could at the approval stage, specify the appropriate class of supervision for the project. On the basis of the information given, the BA could then indicate whether the proposed class of supervision was acceptable. The AP could then proceed to tendering the works in accordance with the agreed classification.

Dr CHOI added that the APs were requested to propose on the class of supervision because they had better knowledge of the site. He stressed that all reasonable concerns would be addressed in drawing up the code of practice.

Regarding the time in auditing selected supervision plans, Mr Keen stated that auditing could take place at any time throughout the construction process to ensure that the plans submitted were in compliance with the relevant guidelines and the code of practice current at the time of submission.

Members and representatives of the professional institutions deliberated on the Administration’s proposed arrangement of selective auditing and conditions for consent. The meeting noted the following concerns :

(a) The current practice of the BA working in partnership with the professionals in the industry provided assurance and some degree of comfort in that the general building plans submitted were being scrutinised by the BA from both public interest and safety point of view. Although the ultimate liability would rest with the professionals, they would be able to know at an early stage as to whether the plans were acceptable and whether adjustments were needed.

(b) Under the selective auditing system, only a certain percentage of supervision plans would be scrutinised. Without the initial screening before consent to commence works was given, professionals would be uncertain of the acceptability of their plans. Such an arrangement would undermine public confidence. In cases of accidents involving injuries, the question of liability would arise.

In response, Dr CHOI stated that in order to provide some degree of certainty as to the required level of supervision, administrative arrangements would be put in place under which the AP would make proposal on the class of supervision. The BA would go through the plans submitted and would indicate whether the proposed class of supervision was acceptable.

To further allay members’ concern, Mr Keen agreed that consideration would be given to include a statement in the letter of consent to the effect that the level of supervision was broadly acceptable albeit no detailed checking had been made as to whether the supervision plan complied with the guidelines and the code of practice. The Bill would formalise the statement and provide that the liability would rest with the professionals preparing the supervision plans. The proposed arrangement was agreed.

Date of Next Meeting

The next meetings were scheduled as follows :

(a) Monday, 3 June at 2:30 p.m.;

(b) Tuesday, 25 June at 8:30 a.m.; and

(c) Wednesday, 26 June at 8:30 a.m.

The meeting closed at 10:45 a.m.

LegCo Secretariat

24 June 1996