PLC Paper No. CB(1)125
(These minutes have been seen by the
Administration and cleared with the Chairman)
Ref: CB1/BC/22/96

Bills Committee on
Public Holiday (Special Holidays 1997) Bill

Minutes of the Meeting
held on Tuesday, 6 May 1997,
at 2:30 pm in Conference Room B
of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong (Convenor)
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHAN Kam-lam
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP

Public officers attending :

Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
Ms Phyllis KO
Senior Assistant Law Draftsman (Acting), Legal Department
Mr MAN Tak-wah
Acting Assistant Commissioner for Labour

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)

Staff in attendance :

Mr Jimmy MA
Legal Adviser
Mr CHEUK Wing-chuen
Senior Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)2

I.Election of Chairman

Dr Philip WONG Yu-hong was elected Chairman of the Bills Committee.

II.Papers for discussion

2. The following papers had been circulated to members before the meeting -

  1. Legislative Council Brief and the Bill
    [LegCo Paper No. CB(3)870/96/97 dated 18 April 1997]

  2. Legal Service Division Report on the Bill
    [LegCo Paper No. LS175/96-97 21 April 1997]

III.Internal Discussion

3. To facilitate the Bills Committee to decide whether public submissions should be invited on the Bill, the Chairman suggested that the Administration should be requested to brief members on the extent of public consultation conducted by the Administration, for example, whether the Labour Advisory Board (LAB) had been consulted on the proposal to declare 1 and 2 July 1997 as additional holidays. Members also agreed that the Administration should be invited to explain the reasons for introducing the Bill to the Legislative Council at such a late stage.

IV.Meeting with the Administration

4. The Chairman welcomed representatives of the Administration to the meeting. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (PAS/EM) briefed members on the salient points of the Bill.

Purpose of the Bill

5. PAS/EM said that the Bill was mainly to provide legal backing for 1 and 2 July 1997 as additional general holidays for the purposes of the Holidays Ordinance (Cap 149) and also as additional statutory holidays for the purposes of the Employment Ordinance (Cap 57). This would provide certainty to employers and employees concerning their obligations and entitlements under the Employment Ordinance in respect of the two special holidays, for example, an employer must grant such holidays to his employees and pay holiday pay to employees who had been employed under a continuous contract for a period of three months immediately preceding these two days. The Bill also provided legal backing for penalties when an employer failed to observe these requirements.

6. PAS/EM further advised that the Bill would put beyond doubt that commercial activities such as clearing settlement of banking and securities transactions and related matters were not to take place on 1 and 2 July 1997. All banks would not be open on these two days and no person would be required to make payment or do any other act relating to any negotiable instrument on these two days.

Public consultation

7. The Chairman asked whether the Administration had consulted LAB before introducing the Bill. The acting Assistant Commissioner for Labour (AC for L) advised that, in October 1996, twelve members of LAB had presented their views to the Preparatory Committee for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the National People's Congress that 1 and 2 July 1997 should be designated special holidays. Responding to Mr IP Kwok-him, PAS/EM advised that the Administration had taken some time to examine the complex legal issues on LAB members' proposal before taking a view on the special holidays. In this connection, Mr LEE Cheuk-yan remarked that he had urged the Administration to submit the Bill to the Legislative Council (LegCo) at an early stage, but was given to understand that the issue would have to be discussed with the Chinese side and that the Bill would be introduced at an appropriate time. It transpired that the Bill was not submitted to the LegCo until recently.

8. Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo was concerned that as the Bill was introduced belatedly, affected parties might not have sufficient time to re-schedule their operation arrangements for the special holidays, for example, the courts would have to re-schedule hearings on 1 and 2 July 1997. He asked if the Administration had consulted the banks and courts beforehand and whether the short notice would cause problems to these organisations and government departments. In response, PAS/EM advised that while he was uncertain about the consultation with the Association of Banks, he believed that the community was aware of the special holidays as the Government had published in June 1996 a list of general holidays for 1997 which included 1 & 2 July 1997. The Senior Assistant Law Draftsman (Acting) (SALD/LD) supplemented that the courts should also be aware of these additional holidays as the Bill had been gazetted.

9. In reply to Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo, PAS/EM clarified that publishing the list of general holidays for 1997 was not in itself a public consultation exercise. However, as the Administration was always open to comments from the community, it had become aware of the views of LAB members and the public that they wanted certainty on the special holidays on 1 and 2 July 1997. The Bill was therefore introduced to provide legal backing for these additional holidays.

10. As members were concerned that affected parties might not have been adequately consulted by the Administration on the implications of the Bill, the Committee agreed that the LegCo Secretariat should invite written submissions from employers' and employees' associations and interested parties on the Bill for consideration by the Committee.

Consultation with China

11. In response to members' concern as to whether the Chinese side had been consulted on the legislative arrangements of the two additional holidays on 1 and 2 July 1997, PAS/EM undertook to provide the information in writing within ten days.

Timeframe for legislation

12. Responding to members' queries about the late introduction of the Bill to LegCo, PAS/EM explained that the Administration had spent a considerable amount of time deliberating on the legal implications of the Bill. The Administration had concluded after careful deliberations that it would be necessary to provide legal backing for and advance notice of these two days as additional holidays. As regards the time taken for law drafting, SALD/LD advised that her department received drafting instructions from the policy branch by the end of March this year.

13. Members were dissatisfied with the Administration's explanation on the late introduction of the Bill. They considered that the Administration should have taken early action to conduct public consultation and discuss with the Chinese side about the 1997 general holidays so that the necessary legislation could have been submitted to LegCo well in advance. Mr IP Kwok-him stated that while Members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) had no objection to designating 1 and 2 July 1997 as additional holidays, they were opposed to the timing and the arrangements of the Hong Kong Government in the submission of the Bill. In view of the delays on the side of the Hong Kong Government and the fact that the Preparatory Committee had started examining the legislation on public holidays from 1 July 1997 and in 1998, Mr IP questioned the need for the Hong Kong Government to make duplicated efforts to submit a similar Bill to LegCo at this stage.

14. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan expressed disappointment that the Government had not submitted the Bill to the Legislative Council last year after issuing the list of 1997 general holidays in June 1996. For the benefit of employees, he considered that the legislation should be put in place as early as possible to provide certainty so that both employers and employees could make arrangements for substituted holidays in accordance with the Employment Ordinance. He pointed out that the present timetable was already rather late, because section 39 of the Employment Ordinance, Cap. 57, provided that an employer might grant an employee a substituted holiday on another day within the period of 60 days immediately preceding or next following the statutory holiday. As such, further delays in the legislative process would make it more difficult for employers and employees to comply with the statutory requirements in this respect.

15. In response, PAS/EM advised that as far as he was aware, the decision to designate 1 and 2 July 1997 as additional statutory holidays had only been made rather recently since the Administration had to deliberate on the legal implications of the two holidays. He reiterated that the Administration considered legislation necessary and that the Bill should be enacted as soon as possible to provide certainty and legal backing for these special holidays.

V.Date of next meeting

16. In view of the tight legislative timetable and at the suggestion of Messrs LEE Cheuk-yan and CHENG Kar-foo, the Committee agreed to hold the next meeting on 23 May 1997 when a reply from the Administration on the consultation with China would be available. As the Chairman would have other commitments on 23 May 1997, the next meeting would be convened by Mr CHAN Kam-lam who was elected Deputy Chairman of the Bills Committee.

17. The meeting ended at 3:20 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
8 August 1997

Last Updated on 30 November 1998