PLC Paper No. CB(1)13/97-98
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration and
cleared with the Chairman)
Bills Committee on Government Rent (Assessment and Collection) Bill
Minutes of meeting held on Thursday, 17 April 1997, at 4:30 pm in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building
Members present :
Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip (Chairman)
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon Margaret NG
Members absent :
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Public officers attending :
- Mr Esmond LEE
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
- Mr Barry WOODROFFE
- Commissioner of Rating and Valuation
- Mr C S WONG, JP
- Deputy Commissioner of Rating and Valuation
- Mr R C BARAM
- Government Land Agent/Estate Management
- Mr James ONEIL
- Deputy Crown Solicitor
- Mr Tony ROBERTSON
- Deputy Principal Solicitor/Legal Advisory and Conveyancing Office
- Ms Sherman CHAN
- Senior Assistant Law Draftsman
Clerk in attendance :
- Miss Odelia LEUNG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1
Staff in attendance :
- Ms Bernice WONG
- Assistant Legal Adviser 1
- Mr Kenneth KWOK
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2
I Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1124/96-97)
1. The minutes of meeting held on 4 February 1997 were confirmed.
II Matters Arising
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1166/96-97 - response of the Administration to the concerns raised by members at the meetings on 13 and 14 March 1997
LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1183/96-97 - provisions extracted from a Deed of Mutual Covenant which are considered relevant to the Bill
LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1329/96-97(04) - 4th revised draft Government Rent (Assessment and Collection) Regulation.)
Lease for special purposes
2. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (PAS/PEL) reiterated that in accordance with Annex III to the Joint Declaration (JD), Government rent was to be charged on leases for special purposes. Paragraph 3 of Annex III to the JD provided for charging of Government rent at 3% of rateable value for new leases granted from the entry into force of the JD. These new leases included leases for special purposes which were granted at a concessionary premium. The Administration therefore considered it unfair not to charge Government rent on special purpose leases extended before 30 June 1997. Consequent upon the Land Commissions endorsement on this arrangement, a clause requiring payment of Government rent was included in special purpose leases which had been extended. Thus, even if the Bill was not passed, the Government still had a contractual right to collect Government rent from these lessees .
3. Members disagreed with the Administrations interpretation of Annex III to the JD and pointed out that its representatives had admitted at previous meeting that paragraph 2 of Annex III did not expressly require the payment of Government rent for special purpose leases.
4. In response to members, the Administration confirmed that the Bill would not apply to special purpose leases without an express provision for payment of Government rent. Government Land Agent/Estate Management (GLA) confirmed that all leases for special purposes so far renewed included such a provision.
Clause 36 Legal effect of demand, etc., on unauthorised structures
5. In response to a members enquiry, Assistant Legal Adviser 1 (ALA 1) advised that the Administrations proposed amendment to clause 36 had not addressed members concern over legitimization of collection of Government rent from occupiers of unauthorized structures. PAS/PEL reiterated that clause 36 was necessary to make clear that no lessor-lessee relationship would be created between the Government and a payee of Government rent who was not the lessee.
III Discussion on draft Committee stage amendments
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1214/96-97)
6. Members discussed the draft Committee stage amendments (CSAs).
Clause 1 Short title and commencement
7. Member noted the proposed deletion of subclause (2) to enable the Bill to come into effect upon gazettal following enactment.
Clause 2 Interpretation
8. Members had no objection to the proposed amendments to the definitions of "Government Rent Roll", "lease", and "small house holding" (amended to small house grant) and to the proposed addition of definitions of "section", "small house holding", and "specified form".
|9. On the reasons for the phrase "for an identical tenement" in the present drafting, the Commissioner of Rating and Valuation (CRV) explained that this was probably to ensure that the rateable value of a tenement would not be ascertained by two different methods. Members agreed to consider this later.||Clerk to note|
|10. Regarding the proposed substitution of the word "assessed" with "ascertained", Senior Assistant Law Draftsman (SALD) explained that this would achieve consistency with the Rating Ordinance (RO), Cap. 116 under which rateable values were to be ascertained, and rates were to be assessed. Members requested the Administration to ensure that necessary amendments would be made to the Bill to apply this concept consistently.||Admin.|
11. PAS/PEL explained that the Administration proposed to revise the definition of "comprised" to include "partly comprised" to avoid the ambiguity as to whether a tenement partly comprised in a lease was treated as comprised in the lease.
12. In response to a members enquiry, the Deputy Commissioner of Rating and Valuation (DCRV) confirmed that some urban buildings were situated partly on an applicable lease and partly on a non-applicable lease. SALD advised that the definition would not apply if "the context otherwise requires" as per the lead phrase in clause 2. Where a provision already contained words such as "partly comprised", it would not be interpreted as "partly partly comprised".
13. Members were concerned that the word "include" might carry a meaning that the definition was not exhaustive and as such, it would be more appropriate to define "comprised" to mean "wholly comprised or partly comprised". The Deputy Principal Solicitor/Legal Advisory and Conveyancing Office (DPS) commented that the Administrations proposed amendment already had such a meaning.
14. A member suggested defining the word to mean "comprised or partly comprised". SALD said that the original way of drafting was more conventional. After deliberations, the Administration agreed that "comprised" should mean "wholly or partly comprised".
Minimum rateable value
15. Members noted that the Administration proposed to add the definition of "minimum rateable value" which meant -
- for the first Government Rent Roll, $3,000; and
- for subsequent Government Rent Rolls, the amount prescribed for the purposes of section 36 (1) (l) of RO.
|16. ALA 1 pointed out that the word "prescribed" meant prescribed by resolution of the Legislative Council. This was at odds with the proposed CSA to clause 34 which provided that the Governor-in-Council might make regulation to determine the minimum rateable values. To avoid ambiguity, ALA 1 proposed to define "minimum rateable value" to mean "an amount prescribed by resolution of the Legislative Council". The Administration agreed to consider this suggestion.||Admin.|
Regional Council area and Urban Council area
17. Members noted that the newly added definitions of "Regional Council area" and "Urban Council area" would have the meanings assigned to them under the District Boards Ordinance (DBO), Cap. 366. They queried the reasons for adopting these definitions instead of those in the Urban Council Ordinance, Cap. 101 and the Regional Council Ordinance, Cap. 385. SALD responded that DBO had more specific definitions of the areas of the two Municipal Councils and it was common for ordinances to refer to DBO for ascertainment of geographical areas.
Clause 4 Exemption from liability to pay Government rent
18. In response to a members enquiry, DPS said that an exemption from liability to pay Government rent would cease if the tenement was assigned to a person who was not a lawful successor in the male line to the indigenous villager who was the assignor.
19. ALA 1 added that according to the definition of lawful successor, sons or daughters of a male indigenous villager were his lawful successors. However, only the offspring of the sons of a male indigenous villager would be regarded as lawful successors in the male line to the indigenous villager.
20. A member enquired whether an illegitimate son of a male indigenous villager would be taken as an indigenous villager. ALA 1 responded that the definition of indigenous villager in the Bill was modelled on section 9 (3) of the New Territories Leases (Extension) Ordinance (NTLO), Cap. 150. Other members were of the view that the concept of legitimacy did not come into play in the definition and this question should not be tackled in the context of the Bill.
21. In response to members, DPS explained that clause 4 was intended to clarify the ambiguities in section 9 of NTLO regarding exemption from payment of Government rent. The proposed amendment to subclause (5) would make it clear that an exemption from liability to pay Government rent would not be affected by the fact that all or any of the interest holders held an interest which had been mortgaged. However, all interest holders must be indigenous villagers to be eligible for exemption; there would not be partial exemption. Where an indigenous villager owned a three-storey small house and sold one storey to a non-indigenous villager, the remaining two storeys in his possession would still be exempted from payment of Government rent. Since the existing policy on exemption as provided in NTLO was not entirely clear, the Administration had clarified this in clause 4. Upon enactment of the Bill, section 9 of NTLO would be repealed.
|22. Since the Administration had confirmed that it had not consulted the New Territories Heung Yee Kuk on the proposed amendments to clause 4 on the ground that these were technical amendments and would not affect the indigenous villagers rights, the Chairman would bring this to the attention of Hon LAU Wong-fat and Hon NGAN Kam-chuen.||Chairman|
|23. At the Chairmans request, the Administration agreed to provide a mark-up copy of the Bill incorporating the CSAs to facilitate further discussion. Members requested ALA 1 to examine whether the CSAs had addressed their concerns.||ALA 1|
III Date of next meeting
24. Members agreed to hold two further meetings on 21 April 1997 at 12:30 pm and 22 April 1997 at 4:30 pm to conclude deliberations on the Bill.
25. The meeting ended at 6:15 pm.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
7 July 1997
Last Updated on 10 Jul, 1997