Ms Jessie YU
Staff in Attendance :
- Mrs Anna LO
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
- Mr Raymond LAM
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6
I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1077/95-96)
The minutes of the Panel meeting held on 29 March 1996 were confirmed.
2. The Chairman referred to the suggestion at the last meeting of a joint meeting with the Economic Services Panel to further examine "the proposed revision of licence fees under the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance" and stated that, considering the quorum required for the joint Panel meeting, it would be more appropriate to examine the issue further when the relevant subsidiary legislation was presented to the LegCo. Members agreed.
3. The Chairman pointed out that subsequent to the last meeting, over 40 submissions on discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and family status had been collected by the Hong Kong Development and Strategic Research Centre through Internet. The submissions were generally in support of both legislative and non-legislative measures and the points raised were similar to those expressed at the last meeting. Members interested in perusing the submissions were requested to approach the Panel Clerk for further arrangement.
II. Date of next meeting and items for discussion
4. Members agreed that the next meeting would be held on Friday, 24 May 1996 at 10:45 a.m. to discuss the following :
- Issues related to the formation of owners corporations in multi-storey buildings
- The transparency and public accountability of advisory and statutory bodies/committees and their members tenure of office
- Sex and Disability Discrimination (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 1996 (Members Bill)
5. It was agreed that the item on "integration of new immigrants from China into the community" would be discussed at the meeting in June. The item on "work plans of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)" would also be discussed when the Chairman of the EOC was appointed and ready for briefing the Panel on the EOCs work plans.
III. Proposed amendments to the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance
(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 1069, 1090 & 1111/95-96)
6. Mr Francis LO and Mr WONG Ho-sang presented the Administrations proposed amendments to the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance (the Ordinance) and the Hotel Accommodation Tax Ordinance.
Views of Hong Kong Federation of Hotel Owners Limited
7. On behalf of the Hong Kong Federation of Hotel Owners Limited (HKFHOL), Mr Michael LI presented HKFHOLs views on the Ordinance and the amendments proposed. He stated that the Administration had not adopted the recommendations and amendments proposed by the Federation in the past few years. The HKFHOL was of the view that, unless major structural alteration was carried out on a hotel, new safety standards should not be applied with retrospective effect on a hotel which had complied with the provisions of Buildings Ordinance and the Fire Services Ordinance in force at the time of construction. In response, Mr LO stated that the concerns of the hotel industry on the retroactive application of new safety standards had been dealt with in the Policy Guidelines issued by the Secretary for Home Affairs in 1993. Under the Guidelines, new conditions would not be imposed on a licence when the works required under the schedules to the licence had been completed, unless there were alterations affecting safety or apparent safety threats. In response to the Chairman, Mr LO undertook to provide the Panel with the Administrations written response to the views of HKFHOL.
Proposed inclusion of compliance with Deed of Mutual Covenant as a licensing condition
8. Mr SIN Chung-kai outlined his suggestion of amending the Ordinance to require a person applying for a guesthouse licence in a building to submit a declaration bearing the signatures of two solicitors certifying that the guesthouse was not in contravention of the buildings Deed of Mutual Covenant (DMC).
9. In response, Mr LO stated that the objective of the Ordinance was to ensure fire and building safety of hotels and guesthouses. While the legislation originated from a trigger incident which revealed the need to regulate the safety of guesthouses, hotels were included in the Ordinance since among other considerations, illegal structures and unauthorized alterations which affected safety were identified in a number of hotels before the enactment of the Ordinance in 1991. Under the Ordinance, compliance with a DMC was not a licensing condition. Nevertheless, the Home Affairs Branch had examined the issue with the Attorney Generals Chambers as well as the Lands Department; and concluded that since a DMC was a private deed entered into amongst the owners of a building, enforcement of the deed, to which Government was not a party, rested with the owners themselves. The Building Management Ordinance had provided for disputes relating to DMCs to be adjudicated by the Lands Tribunal. Mr SIN was dissatisfied with the explanation provided by the Administration and commented that the Administrations policy of not including compliance with DMC as a licensing requirement would only lead to disputes between owners corporations and guesthouse investors.
10. Mr LAU Hon-chuen enquired as to whether a licence would be issued in the event of non-compliance with conditions of the crown lease. He commented that compliance with a DMC should also be made as a licensing condition, as it would facilitate the management of a building. In reply, Mr LO stated that if a hotel/guesthouse satisfied the safety requirements under the Ordinance, a licence would be issued. As regards the suggestion of including compliance with the DMC as a licensing condition, he would discuss it further with the Director of Lands and provide the Panel with a written reply.
Other views and suggestions of Members
11. Mrs Elizabeth WONG and Mr CHAN Wing-chan commented that hotels and guesthouses were different and thus should be governed by different provisions. Mr CHAN supported the Administrations proposed extension of licence validity to three years and further suggested that the licence validity for hotels should be extended to five years.
12. Dr John TSE commented that the Administrations control on guesthouses was inadequate and quoted as an example that in a 24-storey building in Causeway Bay, the large number of guesthouses had enabled their owners to constitute a majority in the owners corporation. There were also many licenced guesthouses with illegal structures. As another example, he asked whether approval would be granted for the conversion of Jardine House into a guesthouse.
13. In reply, Mr R S Howes assured that the Licensing Authority would not grant licence to a guesthouse with illegal structure. If the Administration could be provided with more information on the cases, it could look into them and provide the Panel with a written reply. The conversion of Jardine House into a guesthouse would involve a change in land use and consequently required approval from the Buildings Department.
14. The Chairman informed members that a letter had been received from Mr Howard YOUNG expressing support for the views of HKFHOL.
15. Members noted that a submission had been received from the Tourist Guest Houses Federation of Hong Kong Limited.
IV. Problems encountered by women in recovering alimony
(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 1069 & 1111/95-96)
16. Mr Robin McLeish presented the salient points of the paper provided by the Administration and stressed that the Administration was commited to ensuring effective enforcement of maintenance orders.
17. On the question of keeping divorced women informed of the process and the progress on individual cases, Miss Juliana CHAN explained that the Legal Aid Department (LAD) had spelt out the approximate time for various processes. For cases handled by Legal Aid Counsel, a registration card with the name and telephone number of the responsible counsel would be issued to the applicant. The whole process was explained at the first meeting with the applicant. For cases handled by an external counsel, a report to the LAD was required within every two months. Complaints against staff or external counsel could be made to the LAD. As regards the decision on deployment of internal or external counsel, she explained that external counsel would be deployed when LADs monthly quota was exceeded or when the applicant nominated a particular private solicitor.
18. As regards some members concern on complaints about the manner of the staff of LAD and Social Welfare Department (SWD), Miss CHAN replied that while she could not comment on individual complaints of poor manner, she would convey the message to the LAD. She added that the process required the staff concerned to identify clearly the reason for divorce and the process might sometimes cause discomfort to the applicant. On the question of longer processing time for some enforcement cases, she explained that in handling the cases, the LAD would usually try to recover the maintenance direct from the judgment debtor, the success rate of which was high. Such a step had usually lengthened the processing time. Miss Theresa WONG added that the SWD had already reminded its staff of the proper manner for handling applicants. Training courses on the handling of applicants had also been organised. The SWD would continue to monitor the manner of its staff.
19. For divorced women receiving intermittent payments, Miss WONG explained that if they were not eligible for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), payment from the Charitable Trust Fund would be considered where necessary to meet their short-term needs.
Meeting with deputations
Kwan Fook Womens Concern Group
20. Representatives of the Kwan Fook Womens Concern Group (KFWCG) presented the views of their group. They informed members that a number of divorced women were faced with the problem of partial or non-payment of maintenance by their ex-spouses, thus forcing some of them to resort to CSSA for maintaining their living. They urged for the establishment of an intermediary body to enforce maintenance orders and recover alimonies. Representatives of KFWCG welcomed the improvement of legislation, but added that the enforcement of legislation was equally important.
Yan Oi Tong Community Centre
21. Ms AU Kit-lin presented the submission of Yan Oi Tong Community Centre. She supported the establishment of an intermediary body and hoped that the new measures to assist divorced women in the recovery of alimony could be introduced in the current legislative session.
Concern Group on Single Parents
22. Ms Jessie YU echoed the views of Yan Oi Tong Community Centre and added that the membership of the proposed intermediary body to enforce maintenance orders should comprise representatives from Labour Department, Inland Revenue Department and Immigration Department.
Views and suggestions of members
23. Members generally supported the establishment of an intermediary body to enforce maintenance orders and recovery of alimony. Mr LAW Chi-kwong added that both short term and long term solutions should be pursued at the same time. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan suggested that the intermediary body could pre-pay alimony to those women in need before recovering the amount payable from the judgment debtor.
24. Mrs Elizabeth WONG commented that the order of attachment of earnings should enable the automatic deduction of maintenance from the judgment debtors salary every month. She added that judgment debtors should also be required to inform the court about any change of job and departure from Hong Kong in addition to change of address. A trust fund similar to that of the Traffic Accident Victim Assistance scheme could also be established to assist in the recovery of alimony. Miss Christine LOH stated that the order for attachment of earnings for people who were self-employed should also be carefully worked out to avoid possible loophole. She added that a number of women were unfamiliar with the process and were under stress. The staff of the LAD should thus demonstrate a high level of understanding and compassion in explaining the process and legal aspects to these women.
25. Mr LEE Wing-tat suggested that a surcharge might be imposed as penalty for later payers. The surcharge would serve as a source of income for the intermediary body to meet with part of its administration expenses. Dr John TSE added that consideration might be given to handling the recovery of alimony through the fixed fines processing system of the Treasury.
26. In response, Mr McLeish agreed to consider members suggestions. He explained that the Administration was concentrating its effort on improvement of the existing legislation and process. Priority was given to measures that could be implemented relatively quickly. On the question of whether the Administration had any plan to study the establishment of an intermediary body, he replied that the Administration would provide the Panel with a written reply in two to three months time on its study of overseas experiences and their applicability of otherwise to Hong Kong. He cautioned however that there was much controversy over a similar body established in the United Kingdom for enforcing maintenance orders.
V. Way forward on examination of human rights reports
(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1069/95-96)
27. Members noted that the United Nations hearing on the Initial Report in respect of Hong Kong under Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) would be held in September 1996, while that for the Third Periodic Report under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would be held in November 1996, and that for the supplementary report to the Fourth Periodic Report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights would be held between 21 October 1996 and 8 November 1996. If the procedure to study the last report on racial discrimination were followed, the report of the Panel would have to be submitted to the House Committee for endorsement. As the last House Committee meeting in the current session would be held on 5 July 1996, the time left for examination of the UN reports was very limited.
28. Members agreed that a working group comprising the Chairman, Mrs Emily LAU and Mr LEE Cheuk-yan be formed to determine the way forward for examination of these UN reports. Other interested members of the Panel would be invited to join the working group. It was agreed that the working group would meet on 1 May 1996. Members also agreed that a special meeting to gauge the views of non-government organisations on the Initial Report under UNCRC would be held in the morning of 25 May 1996.
29. The meeting ended at 1:00 p.m.
16 May 1996
Last Updated on 19 Aug, 1998