LegCo Paper No. ESC 32/96-97
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/F/3/2

Establishment Subcommittee

Minutes of the proceedings of the meeting held on Wednesday, 26 February 1997, at 10:45 am in the Legislative Council Chamber

Members present :
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon SZETO Wah
    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
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, OBE, FEng, JP
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon Margaret NG
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Members absent :
    Dr Hon David K P LI, OBE, LLD (Cantab), JP
    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun
    Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP
Public officers attending :
    Mr Kevin HO
    JP Deputy Secretary for the Treasury
    Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service
    Mr Daniel R FUNG QC, JP
    Solicitor General, Legal Department
    Mr Peter H K CHEUNG.JP
    Chambers Manager, Legal Department
    Mr Geoffrey WOODHEAD
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services
    Mr Alex A ARENA
    Director-General of Telecommunications
    Mr Tony WONG
    Senior Assistant Director of Telecommunications
    Miss Eliza LEE
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (1)
    Mrs Dorothy CHAN
    JP Deputy Commissioner for Transport
    Mr Johnny CHAN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (5)
    Mr K S LEUNG
    JP Director of Highways
    Mr Stanley WONG
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Planning)
    Mr C L AU, MBE, JP
    Deputy Director of Territory Development
    Mr Richard LUK
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Urban Renewal)
    Mrs Ava NG
    Government Town Planner, Planning Department
    Ms Olivia NIP
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (6)
    Mr James KWAN
    MBE Assistant Director of Education
    Mr Andrew WELLS
    Deputy Secretary for Housing
    Mr David GIBSON
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing
    Mr Benjamin TANG, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
    Ms Joey LAM
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)
    Mr Rob J S LAW, JP
    Director of Environmental Protection
    Mr Jack CHAN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Security (B)
    Mr Patrick CHAN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Security (Vietnamese)
    Assistant Commissioner of Correctional Services
    Mr Nicholas FRY
    Civil Secretary, Correctional Services Department
    Mr K K KWOK, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Works
    Mr P W CHAN
    Deputy Director of Water Supplies
    Mr K P MOK
    Assistant Director of Water Supplies

Clerk in attendance :

    Mrs Constance LI
    Chief Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)

Staff in attendance :

    Mrs Vivian KAM
    Assistant Secretary General 1
    Miss Anita SIT
    Senior Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)

EC(96-97)60 -Proposed retention of the following posts in the Legal Department from 1 April 1997 to 31 March 1998 -

  1. nine Senior Crown Counsel posts offset by the deletion of nine Crown Counsel posts under the Double Ladder Scheme;
  2. 14 supernumerary Assistant Principal Crown Counsel posts held against 14 Senior Crown Counsel posts under the
  3. Development Posts Scheme; and

  4. four supernumerary Principal Crown Counsel posts held against four Deputy Principal Crown Counsel posts under the Succession Posts Scheme.

Members noted that this was a re-submission item and that the Administration had modified the proposal after discussion at the Establishment Subcommittee meeting on 29 January 1997. In the present paper, the Administration decided not to pursue the proposed delegation of authority to the Controlling Officer for the creation of supernumerary directorate posts, and the number of supernumerary Senior Crown Counsel (SCC) posts sought was reduced from 20 to nine.

2. Some members were of the view that the supernumerary posts under the localisation schemes should not be extended for an indefinite period, and that alternative arrangements should be made for officers found not suitable for promotion under the Double Ladder Scheme (DLS), Development Posts Scheme (DPS) and the Succession Posts Scheme (SPS). They considered that prolonging the practice would be detrimental to the department’s efficiency and staff morale. Members noted that, except for those appointed as SCC/Double Ladder (SCC/DL), the Government had no legal obligation to retain the developees and succession post-holders under DPS and SPS in their acting posts. They therefore suggested that those officers who had not demonstrated potentials for advancement after the training or grooming period should be reverted to their substantive ranks.

3. In response, the Solicitor General (SG) advised that officers selected for grooming under these localisation schemes had been assessed to have the potential for advancement. At present, only nine SCC/DL under the DLS were still awaiting substantive promotion to the SCC rank after the Public Service Commission’s recent approval of the transfer of 11 SCC/DL to the functional SCC posts. He was confident that the remaining nine SCC(DL) could be transferred to functional SCC posts within the coming 12 months. As regards the DPS and SPS, SG advised that training for developees and succession post-holders often took the form of attachment or secondment to other divisions or departments, and the training period normally lasted about two years. As officers were sent for attachment in batches, some of them had not yet completed the training notwithstanding that the schemes had operated for some years. On the possibility of reverting these officers to their former office, SG was of the view that although the Government had no legal obligation to retain officers under the DPS and SPS in their acting rank, it would be unfair to these officers if their acting appointment was to be terminated while undergoing training and they had yet to demonstrate fully their potential for advancement. Pre-mature termination of the secondment or attachment arrangements would also jeopardise the operational efficiency of the supervising division or department.

4. Some members considered that the existing arrangements should cease if the department could now identify sufficient local officers outside these schemes for advancement. In response, SG advised that these localisation schemes had achieved the objective of accelerating the pace of localisation in the department, and a number of local officers groomed under these schemes had been substantively promoted. In recent years, as the department had been able to recruit some experienced counsel from outside, these counsel were allowed to compete on the same basis as SCC/DL for promotion to the SCC rank. In reply to a member, the Chambers Manager advised that 81 SCC/DL and about 30 local Crown Counsel (CC) recruited from outside were promoted to fill functional SCC posts since the introduction of the DLS in 1988. SG further advised that the department had ceased selecting more local officers for the DLS from November 1995 on achieving 100% localisation at the CC rank. As for the DPS and SPS, the progress of localisation had been satisfactory, and the department would continue to groom the existing developees and succession post-holders. Their performance would be evaluated for an assessment to be made on their promotability. On the way forward, SG assured members that the department would review the situation and report to members towards the end of the period of retention. The Government would critically consider other options should some remaining SCC/DL, developees or succession post-holders be found not suitable for substantive promotion after grooming.

5. The item was voted on and endorsed. Ms Emily LAU abstained.

EC(96-97)61 - Proposed creation of a permanent post of Assistant Director of Telecommunications (D2) in the Office of the Telecommunications Authority with effect from 23 March 1997 to head the Economic Regulation Division

6. On the forecast increase of workload, the Director-General of Telecommunications/Office of the Telecommunications Authority (DG/OFTA) confirmed that the proposal had already taken into account the likely increase in workload arising from the recent agreement of the World Trade Organisation to liberalise global telecommunications markets.

7. With regard to the demand from the dominant fixed telecommunication network operators to shorten the processing time for approval of new services and tariff adjustments from 30 - 45 days to ten days, DG/OFTA advised that the actual time taken for processing an application ranged from two to 45 days, depending on the nature and complexity of the application. It was not unusual for approval to be given within two to ten days for routine applications, but complicated proposals, particularly those with implications on competition, might take more than 30 days for a decision. In this respect, OFTA would aim to shorten the timeframe for processing these applications, and to bring its service standard on par with overseas telecommunication authorities. In view of members’ concern about the processing time of applications for new services and tariff revision, the Chairman suggested that the issue could be followed up by the LegCo Panel on Economic Services.


8. Responding to a member’s question on whether dominant operators would receive preferential treatment by OFTA, DG/OFTA advised that all applications from telecommunications network operators were processed expeditiously on the same basis. In fact, the Government had waived the requirement for non-dominant telecommunications operators to seek regulatory approval for price changes and a notification would suffice. These non-dominant operators included all cellular operators, Personal Communication System operators and the three local fixed telephone network operators other than the Hong Kong Telephone Company.

9. With regard to the qualifications required of the proposed Assistant Director post, DG/OFTA advised that the candidate should have a wide range of expertise including a good understanding of economics, law and the telecommunications industry. As this would be a permanent post, it would be filled by open recruitment.

10. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(96-97)62 - Proposed making permanent of the post of Assistant Commissioner for Transport (D2) in the Bus Development Branch of the Transport Department to meet the increased complexity and volume of work

11. On the additional planning work related to new developments in north Lantau and the new airport at Chek Lap Kok, the Deputy Commissioner for Transport (DC for T) advised that the Administration had just granted two new franchises for the operation of bus services in this area. There would be 25 bus routes with about 250 buses to be commissioned in phases, in addition to the special airport buses for staff. With these developments, the Assistant Commissioner/Bus Development (AC/BD) would have to coordinate and balance the interests of the five franchised bus operators, including plans for ancillary services such as bus depot and terminal facilities.

12. In reply to a member, DC for T further advised the department needed to maintain an efficient bus service which could respond readily to demands of new residential developments. It was government policy to maintain healthy competition between buses and other transport modes, while ensuring good co-ordination among transport operators to cater for the transport needs of the public. The AC/BD would also have to keep abreast of technological developments and to encourage public transport operators to make the best use of new technology for the benefit of commuters.

13. With regard to the qualifications required of the post of AC/BD, DC for T advised that as the incumbent would assist the Commissioner for Transport in supervising the bus service operators and in drawing up the relevant policy proposals, the incumbent should have the foresight and knowledge of strategic transport planning.

14. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(96-97)63 - Proposed retention of a supernumerary post of Director of Highways (D6) held against a permanent post of Director of Highways (D5) in the Highways Department up to 31 March 1999 in view of the current level of responsibility and span of the post

15. On the justification of retaining the Director of Highways (D of Hy) post at D6 level, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (PAS/T) and D of Hy explained that the supernumerary D6 post was created in 1992 in recognition of the increased responsibilities placed upon D of Hy as a result of the implementation of the Airport Core Programme (ACP) projects. A recent review of the post revealed that while the ACP projects were near completion, there would continue to be a heavy demand for new transport infrastructural developments given the projected population growth, economic development and increasing cross-border traffic. As the department would also be heavily involved in the planning and implementation of the three railway projects and several major road projects in the next few years, it would be necessary to retain the supernumerary post at D6 level to supervise these projects. The Administration would review the ranking of the D of Hy post in 1998 upon winding down two existing offices in the Highways Department on completion of ACP-related projects. Acknowledging that the department would likely continue to work on high impact infrastructural projects after 1998 in view of the economic developments in Hong Kong, some members suggested that the Administration should conduct a thorough review of the department’s future responsibilities and workload, and decide on the ranking of the D of Hy post on a permanent basis instead of seeking further extensions of the supernumerary post.

16. A member queried that the increase of directorate posts in the Highways Department from June 1992 to December 1996 (from 26 to 34) appeared to be disproportionate to the growth of non-directorate establishment (from 1,756 to 1,940) of the department. In response, D of Hy explained that more than 10 existing directorate posts were supernumerary posts created specifically for the ACP and railway development projects, and these posts would lapse on completion of the projects.

17. In response to a member, D of Hy advised that coordination of road excavation works was part of the routine road maintenance work of the department. He also noted the member’s concern about the inconvenience caused to the public by road excavation works.

18. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(96-97)64 - Proposed redeployment of two permanent posts of Chief Engineer (D1) in the Development Offices of the Territory Development Department to cope with project workload emerging from the increasing number and scope of development projects in the Hong Kong Island, North Lantau and the Northwest New Territories regions

19. Members generally welcomed the proposed re-distribution of directorate duties in the Territory Development Department (TDD). Responding to a member’s question on the present mechanism for deployment of posts, the Deputy Secretary for the Treasury advised that Heads of Departments were empowered to make temporary deployment of posts to meet short-term operational requirements. For long-term deployment of directorate posts, approval of the Finance Committee would be required. As regards whether the existing distribution of responsibilities on a regional basis in TDD would make it difficult to deploy staff between regions, the Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service advised that the existing organisation structure of TDD was not unusual in that many departments were set up on regional basis to facilitate communication and coordination of projects with other departments and District Boards. This would not prevent the department from deploying its staff between regions to meet short-term operational needs. The Deputy Director of TDD added that TDD regularly reviewed its manpower requirements to meet operational requirements, for example, some staff in the New Territories West Development Office (NTW Dev O) had recently been deployed to the New Territories North Development Office (NTN Dev O) to cope with the new development work in Tin Shui Wai.

20. Responding to a member’s query on whether any Chief Engineer (CE) post had ever been deleted because of reduction in workload, the Deputy Director of TDD advised that there was a supernumerary CE post for Tin Shui Wai but that post was deleted in April 1994 because of decrease in workload. In view of the recent development of Tin Shui Wai, it would be necessary to redeploy a CE from the NTW Dev O to deal with the increased development work for Tin Shui Wai.

21. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(96-97)65 - Proposed creation of two supernumerary posts of one Government Town Planner (D2) and one Chief Town Planner (D1) for two years in the Urban Renewal Division of the Planning Department to cope with the increasing workload

22. In response to a member’s question, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (PAS/PEL) advised that the proposal to set up a new Urban Renewal Division (URD) in the Planning Department was the result of on-going discussion between the Government and the Land Development Corporation (LDC) on speeding up the pace of the proposed redevelopment projects as promulgated in the Urban Renewal Policy statement in June 1996. To cope with the expanded scope and the pace of urban renewal, it would be necessary to set up a dedicated professional unit to provide advice to LDC on technical matters for speedy implementation of these projects. The LDC would reimburse Government the staff costs in accordance with section 12(b) of the LDC Ordinance.

23. On the reasons for the delay of urban redevelopment projects, the Government Town Planner of Planning Department (GTP/PD) advised that delays could be attributed to a number of factors such as difficulties in reaching agreement on compensation with the property owners or tenants. The creation of dedicated posts in Planning Department to provide advice on the technical problems encountered by LDC would expedite the progress of the redevelopment projects.

24. Noting that LDC would be replaced by the proposed Urban Renewal Authority (URA), some members enquired about the responsibilities of the new URA and its future relationship with the URD in Planning Department. In response, PAS/PEL advised that an interdepartmental working group was deliberating on the functions of the future URA, and the responsibilities of URD would be reviewed by late 1998. In this connection, PAS/PEL noted a member’s suggestion that URA could possibly take over the functions of the URD of the Planning Department.

25. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(96-97)66 - Proposed lowering the salary bar of the Assistant Education Officer rank from MPS 27 to MPS 22 for officers appointed on or after 1 September 1997 in the Education Department to improve the quality of secondary education

26. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(96-97)67 - Proposed creation of two permanent posts of one Administrative Officer Staff Grade C (D2) and one Chief Planning Officer (D1) in the new Housing Strategy Division of the Housing Branch to cope with the increase in the complexity and volume of work arising from the implementations of the Long Term Housing Strategy Review

27. A member enquired about the measures to be taken by the proposed Housing Strategy Division (HSD) to ensure adequate land supply to meet the housing demand. In response, the Deputy Secretary for Housing (DS/H) advised that the Project Management Division of Housing Branch at present monitored the progress of the delivery of sites for housing projects. The proposed HSD would focus on long-term planning. It would closely monitor changes in housing demand and coordinate government departments at an early stage to increase and speed up the supply of new land for public and private housing. Where necessary, the division would make requests to the Planning, Environment & Lands Branch and the Planning Department for additional land.

28. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(96-97)68 - Proposed creation of five permanent posts of Principal Environmental Protection Officer (D1) in the Environmental Protection Department to strengthen the directorate structure

29. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong stated that the Democratic Party (DP) had serious reservations on the proposal. Members of the DP had grave concern that the organisation of Environmental Protection Department (EPD) had been expanding rapidly, both horizontally and vertically, in recent years. They observed that there had been a continuous process of splitting up the functional and regional units of EPD, as evidenced in its previous and present staffing papers. Considering that the department had an establishment of about 1,600 posts, the proposed directorate establishment of 30 posts was disproportionately high. Members of the DP were not convinced that the present functions of EPD would justify the creation of five additional directorate posts as proposed in the paper. They therefore urged the Administration to critically review the organisation and staffing of EPD before consideration of the proposal.

30. In response, the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) advised that the present management structure of EPD was endorsed by this Subcommittee when considering the proposal of setting up five Local Control Offices in 1993. The present staffing proposal was made on the recommendation of a recent consultancy study on the department’s directorate structure, and was endorsed by the Administration. In fact, the directorate establishment of EPD had not been increased since 1993 notwithstanding the growth of work over the years. The Administration considered it opportune to strengthen the management resources of EPD and recommended the creation of five additional directorate posts in the department.paper
31. The Chairman informed members that the Administration had briefed the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs about the proposal on 25 February 1996, but no detailed discussion took place due to insufficient time. Members of the DP were of the view that additional information should be made available justifying the new posts before the Establishment Subcommittee was asked to take a decision on the proposal. In view of members’ comments, the Deputy Secretary for the Treasury proposed to withdraw the paper.Admin

32. The proposal was withdrawn by the Administration.

EC(96-97)69 - Proposed delegation of authority to Controlling Officers to create supernumerary posts, to be held against permanent posts of a lower pay scale, to accommodate staff whose office will be abolished upon the closure of Vietnamese Migrants Detention Centres to take up alternative employment within the Civil Service

33. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(96-97)70 - Proposed retention of two supernumerary posts of one Assistant Director of Water Supplies (D2) and one Chief Engineer (D1) for one year in the Water Supplies Department to see through implementation of the main recommendations of a recent management review and its follow up studies

34. The item was voted on and endorsed.

35. The Committee was adjourned at 1:05 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
19 March 1997

Last Updated on 12 August 1999