Establishment Subcommittee

Minutes of the proceedings of the Meeting held on
14 June 1996 at 2:30 p.m. in the Legislative Council Chamber

Members Present :

    Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung (Deputy Chairman)
    Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, OBE, LLD, JP
    Hon SZETO Wah
    Dr Hon Edward LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
    Dr Hon HUANG Chen-ya, MBE
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon CHAN Kam-lam
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon Margaret NG
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG CHIEN Chi-lien, CBE, ISO, JP

Members Attending :

    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, OBE, JP
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling

Members Absent :

    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Hon Allen LEE Peng-fei, CBE, JP
    Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, OBE, JP
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing

Public Officers Attending :

Mr Daniel FUNG, QC, JP Solicitor General
Mr Stephen WONG Principal Crown Counsel, Legal Department
Mrs Clara FUNG Chambers Manager, Legal Department
Mr Geoffrey F WOODHEAD Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services
Mr R FOOTMAN, JP Postmaster General
Mr Allan CHIANG Deputy Postmaster General

In Attendance :

Mr Kevin HO, JP Deputy Secretary for the Treasury
Mr D W PESCOD Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service
Mrs Lilian WONG Principal Executive Officer (LegCo Unit), Finance Branch
Miss Pauline NG Assistant Secretary General
Mrs Constance LI Clerk to the Establishment Subcommittee
Mr Andy LAU Senior Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)

Due to Mr Ronald ARCULLI’s absence on overseas trip, Dr Anthony CHEUNG, Deputy Chairman, chaired the meeting.

2. Members noted that Mr LO Suk-ching had resigned from the Establishment Subcommittee as from 4 June 1996.


Proposed changes in the directorate establishment of the Legal Department to cope effectively with the increasing workload and responsibilities

3. The Chairman advised members that discussion of this item was deferred from the previous meeting held on 4 June due to time constraint.

4. Several members expressed doubts on the need to create a total of six permanent directorate posts in the Legal Department. A member questioned if the posts were required in order to accommodate those officers displaced by the deletion of five posts. Members were dissatisfied with the justifications given to those senior posts requested for the Mutual Legal Assistance Unit (MLA) and the Legislative Council (LegCo) Unit & the Constitutional/ Basic Law Unit under the Legal Policy Division.

5. In response, the Solicitor General (SG) advised that the six permanent posts were required to meet the exponential increase in workload of the department. There was no question of posts being created to accommodate officers displaced since filling of the permanent posts would be subject to a competitive promotion exercise, and the recommendations for promotion would be vetted by the Public Service Commission. The creation and deletion of permanent/supernumerary posts would have to be justified on their own.

6. On the staffing requirements of the MLA Unit, SG advised that the subject of MLA had been gaining importance in exponential terms in recent years. In view of Hong Kong’s active economic role in the region and the increased work in the implementation of the MLAs in relation to extradition, rendition, asset recovery, assistance in obtaining evidence, mutual recognition and enforcement of judgement and arbitration awards, etc., it would be necessary to establish a centralised unit to deal with the incoming and outgoing requests for MLAs. He clarified that while negotiation of MLA treaties was undertaken by the International Law Division and discussed at the Joint Liaison Group, the proposed MLA Unit would undertake the process of implementation. The scope of MLA would also be extended to cover requests for search and seizure, the transfer of prisoners, for the giving of evidence or other assistance. SG advised that there had been complaints on the manner of dealing with such requests which were presently handled by various units in the department. A centralised unit to deal with MLA matters was therefore necessary to render Hong Kong on a par with other foreign jurisdictions including the People Republic of China which had a control authority within the Ministry of Justice in Beijing, and to implement the MLA treaties efficiently. In response to members, he agreed to provide further information on the work of the proposed MLA Unit, and the nature and frequency of complaints received in this respect.


7. A member pointed out that the Evidence (Amendment) Bill now under deliberation might have bearings on the functioning of the proposed MLA Unit. In these circumstances, some members considered that it might be premature to create the directorate posts at this stage, and suggested that the implications of the proposed legislation should be discussed by the Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services before consideration of the staffing requirements.

8. Referring to the proposed creation of the additional Principal Crown Counsel (PCC) post to enable the Deputy SG to assist the SG, a member asked whether there was a genuine need for SG to make frequent overseas duty visits. In reply, SG briefed members on the purpose and background of these overseas visits, and explained that some of these were essential to the discharge of international treaty obligation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights whilst others helped to promote the interest of Hong Kong overseas. At the request of the member, he undertook to provide more information about the overseas duty visits undertaken last year.


9. Several members considered that the proposed Deputy Principal Crown Counsel (DPCC) post for the LegCo Affairs Unit was unjustified as there was no indication that workload in this respect had increased significantly. In response, SG advised that given the increasingly close working relationship between the executive and legislative arms of Government, there was a need to strengthen the directorate support in the preparation and steerage of legislation and the giving of advice on the law and practices of the legislature in committees. The existing arrangement of deploying officers to deal with the work on a part-time basis was unsatisfactory and inefficient and it was necessary to build up experience and expertise in this area. An additional permanent post was therefore required for the purpose.

10. On the proposed DPCC post for the Constitution/Basic Law Unit, some members considered that given the apparently temporary nature of the work, it would be more appropriate to request for a supernumerary post rather than a permanent post. In response, SG advised that the need for any Government to be given good constitutional legal advice was unarguable and that the advent of a written mini-constitution for Hong Kong would bring about profound, permanent changes. The nature of the work was far from temporary since, in addition to the vetting of legislation to ensure that they were consistent with the Basic Law, there was also an on-going need to give advice to the Administration on policies and proposals which required conformity with the Basic Law. He therefore considered that a permanent DPCC post would be necessary.

11. A member questioned why one PCC and three DPCC posts had been retained up to September 1996 as the electoral reform work had already been completed some time ago. In reply, SG advised that the posts were retained after the elections in September 1995 in order to follow up on outstanding electoral and constitutional issues, such as election petitions, and the recommendations of the Boundary and Election Commission. While these supernumerary posts would be deleted upon the completion of the electoral reform work, the residual work in this respect would have to be undertaken by the two proposed DPCC posts.

12. On the creation of one DPCC post for the Law Reform Commission Secretariat, SG advised that, apart from servicing the Commission and the sub-committees and preparing research materials for the meetings, the Secretariat was also required to undertake law reform projects. In view of the increasing volume of work in this area, it would be necessary to strengthen the directorate establishment of the Secretariat. In response to a member, the Administration agreed to provide further information on the number of Law Reform Reports published and the proposals which necessitated legislative amendments.


13. After discussion, several members remained unconvinced of the need for the additional permanent directorate posts in the Legal Policy Division. They were concerned that there might be duplication of work, and the justifications given in the present paper were incomplete. Some members urged the Administration to further consider the possibility of redeployment of staff. Several members expressed serious reservation on part of the staffing proposals, and requested that the various proposals in the paper be voted separately.

14. Having regard to members’ comments, the Deputy Secretary for the Treasury suggested a modified proposal by withdrawing the proposals at paragraphs 2(b) and (c) of the paper. The revised proposals covered the creation of the following posts:

“Members are invited to recommend to the Finance Committee the following changes in the directorate establishment of the Legal Department :

  1. Attorney General’s (AG’s) Office : creating one permanent post of PCC (DL3) and upgrading the post of Administrative Assistant to the AG from Senior Administrative Officer (MPS 45-49) to Administrative Officer Staff Grade C (D2); and
  2. Law Reform Commission Secretariat : creating one permanent post of DPCC (DL2).

Members also noted that the four supernumerary posts in the Legal Policy and Law Drafting Divisions given in paragraph 2(e) of the discussion paper would lapse on 30 September 1996.

15. With members’ agreement, the Chairman put the modified proposal to vote. The modified proposal was endorsed.


Proposed the following under Head 46 -

(a) creation of three permanent posts of one Assistant Postmaster General (D2), one Chief Controller of posts (D1) and one Chief Treasury Accountant (D1) offset by the deletion of one post of Senior Controller of Posts (MPS 45-49) to cope with the demands arising from the growth of postal business and the new demands of the Post Office Trading Fund; and

(b) redeployment of one permanent post of Chief Controller of Posts (D1)

16. In response to a member’s question, the Postmaster General (PMG) explained the basis of deriving the target rate of return for the Post Office Trading Fund (POTF) which was established in August 1995. He clarified that the updated forecast return was generally in line with the original estimate; the more favourable rate of forecast return was due to factors like more favourable exchange rates, and the projection of lower inflation rates, air conveyance charges and terminal dues payments. He advised that any surplus would be ploughed back to business, and the LegCo Panel on Economic Services was regularly briefed on the progress of POTF.

17. On the future direction of the POTF, PMG advised that under the new mode of operation, the Post Office had adopted a commercial and customer-oriented approach to expand its services to meet the needs of the market. It was therefore necessary to strengthen its directorate in order to formulate the new business strategy and to steer the implementation plan. He assured members that, in promoting business and in expanding new services, the Post Office would at the same time maintain and improve the standard of service to the public. In this connection, a Chief Controller of Posts would be re-deployed to monitor the efficient provision of postal and counter services throughout the territory.

18. As regards the need to engage a consultant to advise on business development of the department, PMG advised that the department would benefit from the knowledge transfer. In reply to a member, he advised that he would critically review the need for extending the consultancy contract upon its expiry.

19. On the filling of the proposed posts, PMG advised that these would be filled by internal promotion.

20. The item was voted on and endorsed.

21. The meeting ended at 4:30 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
4 July 1996

Last Updated on 27 November 1998