LegCo Paper No. HB 561/95-96
Ref : HB/H/5

Legislative Council House Committee
(1995/96 Session)

Minutes of 15th meeting held in the LegCo Chamber
of the Legislative Council Building
on Friday, 26 January 1996 at 2:30 p.m.

Present :

    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP
    Hon Martin LEE, QC, JP
    Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
    Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, OBE, JP
    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon CHIM Pui-chung
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
    Hon James TO Kun-sun
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon CHAN Kam-lam
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
    Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon LAU Chin-shek
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon MOK Ying-fan
    Hon Margaret NG
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Hon SIN Chung-kai
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling

Absent :

    Hon Allen LEE, CBE, JP
    Dr Hon David K P LI, OBE, LLD (Cantab), JP
    Hon NGAI Shiu-kit, OBE, JP
    Hon SZETO Wah
    Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
    Dr Hon HUANG Chen-ya, MBE
    Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin
    Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
    Hon LO Suk-ching
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP

In attendance :

    ASG2 (Clerk to the House Committee)












(1) Confirmation of the minutes of the last meeting held on 19.1.96

(LegCo Paper No. HB 509/95-96)

The minutes were confirmed.

(2) Matters arising

(a) Subsidiary legislation relating to the Noise Control Ordinance tabled in the Legislative Council on 17.1.96

Referring to items 3-7 of the subsidiary legislation which dealt with control on construction noise in noise sensitive residential areas, Mr Ronald ARCULLI said that he would write to the Environmental Protection Department suggesting it to liaise with the construction and building industries concerning details on the implementation of the subsidiary legislation.

Members agreed to support the subsidiary legislation.

(b) Acquisition of office space for LegCo

The Chairman informed Members that at the meeting of The Legislative Council Commission with the Administration on 23.1.96, the Administration had undertaken to identify suitable office premises in the vicinity of LegCo Building to put under one roof the existing outstations of the Secretariat and some of the offices now in the LegCo Building in order to provide adequate space for Members, the Secretariat and improved conference and media facilities.

Having regard to the difficulty in negotiations with the prospective landlords, the Chairman sought Members’ view on a suggestion by the Commission that the Administration consider seeking approval for a financial commitment for acquiring such premises directly from the Finance Committee (FC) without going through the Public Works Subcommittee (PWSC). The Administration would provide detailed proposals at a later stage when more information could be made available.

Dr YEUNG Sum had reservations about the arrangement, as it would set an undesirable precedent. His view was shared by Mr Albert CHAN Wai-yip who said that the acquisition of space of LegCo did not appear to be a very urgent matter and that LegCo should not be seen as getting preferential treatment for itself.

Mr LAW Chi-kwong said that, having considered the fact that only limited information could be provided to PWSC at this stage, he would agree that the Administration be allowed to approach FC direct on this occasion.

In response to a question raised by Miss Margaret NG, the Legal Adviser said that in accordance with the Standing Orders, it was for FC to decide whether a financial proposal should first be scrutinized by its subcommittees.

After some discussion and in view of the special circumstances of the case, Members agreed to Mr Ronald ARCULLI’s proposal that the Administration might seek approval from FC direct for the purchase of the premises, but would have to approach PWSC in the first instance for funds to fit out the premises.

The Chairman would convey the recommendation of the House Committee to the Administration.

(3) Legal Adviser’s report on the subsidiary legislation tabled in the Legislative Council on 24.1.96

(LegCo Paper No. LS 68/95-96)

The Legal Adviser informed Members that items 1 and 6-8 of the subsidiary legislation were related to fee increases.

Mr Ronald ARCULLI suggested that a Subcommittee should be set up to study items 1, 7 and 8 of the subsidiary legislation.

Mr Zachary WONG Wai-yin proposed that the Subcommittee formed should also study item 6 which dealt with fare increases of "Star" Ferry Company Limited as more information was required to facilitate consideration of the proposed fare increases.

Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee and Mrs Selina CHOW objected to Mr WONG’s proposal on the ground that the Transport Panel had already discussed the issue.

After some discussion, the Chairman put Mr WONG’s proposal to vote. There were 18 votes for and 4 votes against the proposal, and 3 abstentions. The Chairman declared that the proposal had been agreed.

Noting the Legal Adviser’s advice that items 1-5 were
inter-related, Members agreed that the Subcommittee should study items 1-8 of the subsidiary legislation together. It was also agreed that the scrutiny period of the subsidiary legislation should be extended to 6.3.96.

The following Members agreed to join the Subcommittee : Mrs Selina CHOW, Mr Ronald ARCULLI, Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, Mr LEE Wing-tat, Mr Zachary WONG Wai-yin, Mr CHAN Kam-lam, Miss CHAN Yuen-han, Mr CHEUNG Hon-chung, Dr LAW Cheung-kwok, Mr SIN Chung-kai and Mr TSANG Kin-shing.

The Chairman said that in view of the time limit for studying the subsidiary legislation, the Subcommittee would start work immediately notwithstanding that there were already 16 active Bills Committees/Subcommittees. He advised Members that the Subcommittee on Procedural Matters would be asked to consider at its next meeting a proposal to designate a slot specifically for the study of subsidiary legislation. If this was agreed, the maximum number of active Bills Committees to study bills would be 15.

Members agreed to support the remaining items of subsidiary legislation.

(4) Position report on Bills Committees and Subcommittees

(LegCo Paper No. HB 519/95-96)

Members noted the report.

(5) Motion debate for the sitting on 31.1.96

With the agreement of the Chairman, Miss Emily LAU referred to her motion debate on "Shadow government" to be held at the sitting on 31.1.96. As three Members had given notice to move amendments to her motion, she proposed that the duration of the division bell in respect of any divisions that might be claimed in the debate be reduced to 30 seconds.

The Chairman advised that the House Committee had agreed at its meeting on 15.12.95 to amend the Standing Orders to allow the moving of a motion without notice during a sitting for the purpose of shortening the duration of the division bell to one minute where many divisions were anticipated.

After some discussion, Mr SZETO Wah suggested and Members agreed that the decision made on 15.12.95 should be adhered to . i.e. any shortening of the duration of the division bell should be one minute. Members also agreed that the duration of the first division bell in respect of Miss Emily LAU’s motion would remain three minutes.

Immediately after the result of the first division had been declared, the Chairman would rise to seek the President’s consent for him to move a motion to suspend SO No. 36(4) to reduce the duration of the division bell to one minute for any subsequent divisions that might be claimed in respect of Miss LAU’s motion. For the benefit of the Members who were absent, the Secretariat would issue a circular to inform all Members of the arrangement.

(6) Business for the LegCo sitting on 7.2.96

(a) Questions

(LegCo Paper No. CB 399/95-96)

20 questions (six oral and 14 written) had been tentatively scheduled.

Mr NGAN Kam-chuen advised that he would change the subject of his question. Deputy Secretary General advised that the deadline for giving notice was 29.1.96.

(b) Statement

No statement had been notified.

(c) Government Motion

No motion had been notified.

(d) Bills - 1st and 2nd Readings

(a) Coroners Bill

(b) Immigration Service (Amendment) Bill 1996

The Chairman advised that the above Bills would be introduced into LegCo on 7.2.96 and considered by the House Committee on 9.2.96.

(e) Motion debate on "Maintaining Hong Kong’s competitiveness as a leading international financial centre"- to be moved by Mr Paul CHENG Ming-fun

(f) Motion debate on "Sale of Flats to Sitting Tenants Scheme"- to be moved by Mr Edward S T HO

Mr Edward HO advised Members that he had amended the wording of his motion by deleting the reference to flats of 5 years or less.

The Chairman reminded Members the deadline for giving notice of amendments, if any, to the motions would be 31.1.96.

(7) Advance information on motion debates for the LegCo sitting on 14.2.96

(a) Motion debate on "Proposal of the Housing Authority’s Ad Hoc Group on Private Domestic Property Ownership by Sitting Public Housing Rental Tenants"

Members noted the wording of the motion to be moved by Mr LEE Wing-tat.

(b) Motion debate on "Disparity of wealth in Hong Kong"

Members noted the wording of the motion to be moved by Mr Frederick FUNG Kin-kee.

The Chairman advised that the deadlines for giving notice of the above motions and of amendments, if any, were 30.1.96 and 7.2.96 respectively.

(8) Reports by Panels/Bills Committees/Subcommittees

Report by the Panel on Constitutional Affairs - Matters relating to LegCo Members’ term of office

(LegCo Paper No. PL 641/95-96)

Mr James TIEN Pei-chun, chairman of the Panel, briefly introduced the paper which summarized the Panel Members’ views and concerns on issues arising from a possible termination of their office as LegCo Members in 1997 and the Administration’s stance on the matter. The Panel would like to seek the House Committee’s advice as to the most appropriate channel to address Members’ concerns.

Miss Margaret NG referred Members to the list of questions at Appendix A to the paper, which aimed at elucidating her concerns relating to liabilities arising from a dissolution of the Council on 1.7.97.

In response to the Chairman, the Legal Adviser first observed that the paper sought Members’ views on how to address the issues. They needed careful study but if Members wished he would offer preliminary views at this meeting. He advised that the formal constitutional position was that the Legislative Council could be dissolved by the Governor at any time under the Royal Instructions. While the Electoral Provisions Ordinance did not guarantee any Member a 4-year term, it did guarantee that a Member, once elected, should have tenure of office until the next dissolution of the Legislative Council, subject of course to remaining personally qualified. There were also provisions in law for elections to be held at least every four years. He emphasized that his advice was strictly confined to the legal position. In addressing the issue, there might be a need to separate legal points from political or moral undertakings and obligations.

In response to Mr IP Kwok-him, the Legal Adviser said that his advice was not related to individual employment or tenancy contracts Members had entered into. While contracts might share common features, every contract was unique and independent advice would need to be sought by Members.

In response to Mr James TIEN, the Legal Adviser said that under the electoral law, there was no guarantee that a Member, once elected, would be serving for a tenure of office for four years. The most that could be said was that there was a reasonable expectation. Because the tenure of office was not legally guaranteed, the question of legally enforceable indemnities, if there were to be a dissolution of the Council prior to 1999, would be very doubtful.

Mr TSANG Kin-shing said that the position was not acceptable. He considered that Members should be indemnified if their tenure of office were terminated prior to 1999 due not to reasons such as resignation or criminal conviction, but to the change of sovereignty. Moreover, unlike in the past, Members of the current term were required by rules set by the Administration’s Commission on Remuneration for Members of the Legislative Council to sign formal employment contracts with their staff. The Legal Adviser said that, while his preliminary view was that the solution was unlikely to lie in legal action, he nevertheless shared Mr TSANG’s view in terms of principles and would give further thought to the points raised by him.

After some discussion and at the request of Members, the Legal Adviser agreed to provide a paper on his legal advice on the matter. In response to Mrs Selina CHOW and Miss Margaret NG, he would also include in the paper his advice on :

  1. whether repeated statements made by Government officials that incumbent Members would serve a four-year term of office could be regarded as a legal undertaking; and
  2. he difference, if any, between a dissolution of the Council under the Royal Instructions and a dissolution by China as an incoming sovereign after 1997.

The Chairman summarized the discussion :

  1. the House Committee’s Subcommittee on Review of Allowances for Members of the Legislative Council under the chairmanship of Mr Ronald ARCULLI would discuss with the Commission on Remuneration for Members of the Legislative Council chaired by Mr J D McGregor issues relating to winding-up allowance and Members’ salaries; and
  2. on the broader issues relating to Members’ tenure of office, the Constitutional Affairs Panel would discuss further when the Legal Adviser’s advice was available, and report again to the House Committee.

(9) Any Other Business

(a) The Legislative Council Commission

The Chairman advised Members that The Legislative Council Commission had discussed at its meeting on 23.1.96 the Preliminary Working Committee’s proposal to repeal The Legislative Council Commission Ordinance and had decided that the President, as Chairman of the Commission, would write to the Chinese government to explain the background to and the rationale for setting up the Commission and to convey staff’s concern about the implications of the proposal on their future.

Dr YEUNG Sum and Miss Emily LAU supported the decision and said that the Secretariat, which was politically neutral and highly efficient and professional, should be maintained.

(b) Governor’s Question Time on 1.2.96

The Chairman advised Members that the Governor had proposed the following topics for the Question Time on 1.2.96 :

  1. Working relationship with Preparatory Committee; and
  2. Labour relations.

The meeting ended at 3:45 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
31 January 1996

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