Legislative Council Finance Committee
LegCo Paper No. FC 59/96-97
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/F/1/2

Minutes of the proceedings of the meeting

held on Friday, 17 January 1997
at 2:30 pm in the Legislative Council Chamber

Members present :
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum (Chairman)
    Hon CHAN Kam-lam (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Allen LEE, CBE, JP
    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP
    Hon SZETO Wah
    Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
    Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon CHIM Pui-chung
    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
    Dr Hon HUANG Chen-ya, MBE
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
    Hon James TO Kun-sun
    Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung
    Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
    Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin
    Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon LAU Chin-shek
    Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon LO Suk-ching
    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 Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling
Members absent :
    Hon Martin LEE, QC, JP
    Dr Hon David K P LI, OBE, LLD (Cantab), JP
    Hon NGAI Shiu-kit, OBE, JP
    Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, OBE, FEng, JP
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
    Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Public officers attending :
    Mr K C KWONG
    JP Secretary for the Treasury
    Mr Kevin HO
    JP Deputy Secretary for the Treasury
    Ms Miranda CHIU
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare
    Assistant Director of Social Welfare
    Miss Lilian FUNG
    Senior Statistician of Social Welfare Department
    Mr Ros K T LAM
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
    Mr H F LEE
    Assistant Director of Education (Allocation and Support)
    Mr K K CHONG
    Assistant Director of Education (Planning and Research)
    Mr Trevor KEEN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
    Mr R C BARAM
    Government Land Agent of Lands Department

Clerk in attendance :

    Miss Pauline NG
    Assistant Secretary General 1

Staff in attendance :

    Mrs Constance LI
    Chief Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)
    Mr Andy LAU
    Senior Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)

Item No. 1 - FCR(96-97)90

The Committee approved the proposal.

Item No. 2 - FCR(96-97)91
HEAD 170 - SOCIAL WELFARE DEPARTMENT Subhead 179 Comprehensive social security assistance scheme

2. Members noted that the Administration had tabled a supplementary note giving a breakdown on the supplementary provision of $1,390 million required for the scheme. On the reasons for the substantial growth of cases under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) scheme, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare (PAS/H&W) advised that the increase was attributed to a combination of factors such as greater public awareness of the scheme, change in attitude of the public towards increasing acceptance of receiving CSSA payments, and improvements to the CSSA scheme introduced in April 1996 which rendered more people eligible for assistance. There had also been an increase in average payment per case arising from an increase in the number of non-standard payments and an increased number of cases involving larger households.

3. With regard to the increase in unemployment cases under the CSSA scheme notwithstanding a recent decline in the unemployment rate, the Assistant Director of Social Welfare (AD/SW) advised that the two figures could not be directly correlated. There was often a time gap for the number of CSSA cases to reflect changes in the overall unemployment situation of the community, as some unemployed families would not be eligible for CSSA until they had run down on their savings. Nevertheless, there was an early sign in the slowing down of the rate of caseload increase under the unemployment category, possibly as a result of the improved unemployment situation of the community. This should be treated with caution, however, since the slowing down had only appeared in the previous month’s figures and it was not yet possible to say whether this was a definite trend.

4. Noting that the number of CSSA cases under the low-income, single parents and unemployment categories had increased by 80%, 50% and 70% respectively when compared to last year, a member asked what proactive measures the Government would take to help these people so that they did not have rely on social security assistance in the long term. In response, PAS/H&W advised that it was Government policy to encourage the able-bodied CSSA recipients, except those single parents, to seek employment. In this respect, CSSA recipients who had the ability to work would be required to register with the Local Employment Service and be referred to the Employee Retraining Programmes where appropriate. There were also other incentive measures to encourage CSSA recipients to join retraining programmes and to seek and stay in employment. Special allowances were payable under the CSSA scheme to meet telephone installation and recurrent expenses and travelling expenses to facilitate CSSA recipients in seeking employment. AD/SW agreed to consider other arrangements to assist job-seekers. In response to some members, PAS/H&W undertook to provide further information on the number of referrals to the Employee Re-training Programme under the unemployment category and the number of cases which had successfully obtained employment. Admin

5. In response to a member, the Secretary for the Treasury advised that the proposed increase in expenditure under the CSSA scheme would not affect the provision of other social services. He confirmed that sufficient provision had been included in the 1997-98 draft Estimates for the existing and planned services.

6. The Committee approved the proposal.

Item No. 3 - FCR(96-97)92
Subhead 180 Social security allowance scheme

7. The Committee approved the proposal.

Item No. 4 - FCR(96-97)93

New Subhead "Loans to non-profit-making international schools"
Capital assistance loan to the Canadian International School

8. In reply to a member, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (PAS/EM) advised that the proposed loan was calculated on a fixed price lump sum contract basis using the average costs for constructing standard aided primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong. Although the loan was to be drawn down by the school in 1998 upon completion of the new school building, no upward adjustment in the loan amount would be allowed.

9. Members noted that the proposed loan would be at nil interest in accordance with the existing policy. In response to a member, the Administration agreed to provide information on the amount of interests that could have been earned otherwise over the ten-year loan period.Admin

10. On the forecast demand of school places for the Canadian curriculum, PAS/EM advised that the new school building was to cater for an anticipated shortfall of about 700 places in 1998.

11. A member queried why international schools enjoyed a better student-class ratio and a more generous provision from the Government. As the provisions of international schools would benefit only a small percentage of local students, she urged the Government to make greater efforts to improve the current provision for local schools. In response, PAS/EM clarified that any eligible financial assistance to international schools was computed on par with local schools, and was based on the number of students that would be accommodated in the proposed school rather than the number of classes. The Assistant Director of Education added that while different countries adopted different standards in relation to class size, Hong Kong was currently within the average category. In this respect, it was the Government’s objective to further enhance the quality of education in Hong Kong.

12. Noting that schools operated by the English Schools Foundation still received a higher subsidy from Government than other international schools, a member remarked that the Government should review the current policy to achieve parity treatment for all international schools in Hong Kong as soon as possible. As the matter touched upon a policy issue, the Chairman advised that the subject could be followed up at the LegCo Panel on Education.xx

13. The Committee approved the proposal.

Item No. 5 - FCR(96-97)94
Subhead 221 Clearance of Crown land - ex-gratia allowances
Ex-gratia allowances for loss of crops arising from clearances

14. Members welcomed the proposed improvements to the existing basis for granting ex-gratia allowances for loss of crops arising from clearances to farmers who occupied Government land under the terms of a Crown Land Licence. Members also noted that the Administration had been in discussion with the LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works and met some affected farmers on the issue. In this respect, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (PAS/PEL) advised that the Government had accepted most of the comments of the affected farmers interviewed, except the request for compensation to illegal squatters occupying Government land.

15. Replying to members, PAS/PEL advised that the new policy would not have retrospective effect, and that it would only apply to future clearances and on-going clearances which had yet to be completed. The latter might include households which were awaiting payments or re-housing arrangements, and the Government would need to assess their claims carefully under the revised policy based on the individual merits of each case. As regards the payment of ex-gratia allowances to an immediate family member of the affected farmer as proposed in paragraphs 5(c) and 6 of the discussion paper, PAS/PEL clarified that this was in line with the current practice. The ex-gratia payments for this category would only be made under the specified circumstances subject to the surrender of the Crown Land Licence.

16. A member asked whether the Government should also compensate for the loss of income to the affected farmers arising from the clearance. In response, PAS/PEL advised that the ex-gratia payment under discussion was to compensate for the loss of crops, and there were separate policies for re-housing and employment and welfare assistance. The relevant government departments would provide such assistance to the affected households where necessary.

17. At the request of a member, PAS/PEL undertook to provide further information on the actual amounts of ex-gratia payments made for development and non-development clearances in the past three years.Admin

18. The Committee approved the proposal.

19. The Committee was adjourned at 3:25 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
10 February 1997

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