LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1066/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref :CB2/PS/9

LegCo Panel on Home Affairs
Subcommittee on Review of Advisory and Statutory Bodies

Minutes of Meeting
held on Tuesday, 7 January 1997 at 4:30 pm in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present:
    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai (Chairman)
    Hon LEE Wing-tat (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling
Members Absent :
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Public Officers Attending:
    Item II
    Mr Carlson CHAN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
    Mrs Maureen CHAN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Health & Welfare
    (Medical 1)
    Mr Clement CHEUNG
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Health & Welfare
    (Medical 2)
    Ms Miranda CHIU
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Health & Welfare
    (Welfare 1)
    Mr Augustine CHOI
    Commissioner for Rehabilitation
    Mr Daniel SIN
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Health & Welfare (Welfare 2)(Acting)
    Dr S P MAK
    Assistant Director of Health
    Dr Regina CHING
    Principal Medical & Health Officer
    Mrs Rachel CARTLAND
    Assistant Director of Social Welfare (Social Security)
    Mr Paul WONG
    Assistant Director of Social Welfare (Subventions)
Attendance by Invitation :
    Item II

    Hospital Authority

    Dr Lawrence LAI
    Deputy Director
Clerk in Attendance :
    Mrs Anna LO
    Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
Staff in Attendance :
    Mr Raymond LAM
    Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6

I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 815/96-97)

1. The minutes of the meeting held on 2 December 1996 were confirmed.

II. Review of advisory and statutory bodies relating to health and welfare

(Paper No. CB(2) 818/96-97 (01))

2. Representatives of Health and Welfare Branch (HWB) highlighted the salient points of the Administration’s paper. In response to the Chairman, the representative of HWB explained that HWB had provided relevant extracts of the LegCo motion debate on the subject on 8 May 1996 to advisory/statutory bodies under HWB’s policy purview. Advisory bodies agreed with the need to inform the public of their work and discussion, but had reservation on holding open meetings being the only means to achieve this objective. The standing orders of the Arts Development Council (ADC), together with members’ views expressed at this Subcommittee, would be provided to these advisory bodies for consideration at their coming meetings. Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs (PAS(HA)) added that the Home Affairs Branch had provided the standing orders of ADC to all policy branches for distribution to advisory bodies under their purview. The transparency of advisory bodies had seen substantial improvement over the previous year. He reiterated that holding open meetings was only one of the many transparency measures.Admin

3. Members were concerned that none of the 18 advisory bodies under HWB’s policy purview had the practice of holding open meetings. They were of the view that the Administration’s policy on opening up meetings of advisory bodies was inconsistent as illustrated in the case of the Housing Authority (which holds open meetings) and the Hospital Authority (which holds closed meetings) when these two organizations had functions similar in nature. They maintained that, as a general rule, meetings of advisory bodies should be open to the public, while exceptionally discussions on confidential matters could be closed. The Administration should urge advisory bodies to follow such a practice. As regards advisory bodies with a long history of holding closed meetings, members considered that a grace period could be granted to these bodies for adopting such a practice. The Chairman stated that this suggestion should be incorporated in the Subcommittee’s report. A member added that bodies mainly involving advice on policy matters, such as the Health and Medical Development Advisory Committee (HMDAC), the Rehabilitation Advisory Committee (RAC), and the Social Welfare Advisory Committee (SWAC) should particularly consider holding open meetings. In view of the possible influence of the tobacco industry on the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH), another member considered that COSH should hold open meetings. The representative of HWB informed members that while meetings of HMDAC were closed to the public, its views on important issues were reported regularly to the relevant LegCo Panel. Press briefings were also held after each meeting.

4. In response to a member’s comment that the Administration seemed to identify the desired persons for appointment to particular advisory bodies first before establishing the relevance of their background to such bodies, representatives of HWB stressed that appointment of members to advisory bodies were made in consideration of the needs and nature of the bodies, and backgrounds of the members required before appointing persons on an ad personam basis.Clerk

5. A member commented that SWAC’s practice of holding an open meeting for the 1996 Policy Commitments should be extended to RAC and HMDAC. Another member could not accept the explanations given by advisory bodies for holding closed meetings as recorded in the paper provided by the Administration. He disagreed with the view that opening up meetings would hinder frank discussions and doubted the effectiveness of "holding press briefings, if necessary", as it was the advisory bodies which decided the necessity of press briefings.

Nomination mechanism

6. A member observed that only three advisory bodies under HWB’s policy purview had nomination mechanism. He stated that such mechanism should be extended to more bodies, such as RAC and SWAC. Representatives of HWB responded that whether a nomination mechanism was adopted depended on the nature and Terms of Reference of an advisory body. A common problem was the identification of suitable organizations which could represent categorically the interests of the concerned sectors. Members were of the view that concerned sectors could be left to sort out their representation. PAS(HA) reiterated that members of advisory bodies were appointed on an ad personam basis, taking into account their experience, expertise, ability, integrity and the needs of respective advisory bodies. In some exceptional cases where there were organizations with a clear, direct and pertinent interest, the Administration might invite these organizations to nominate or elect their own representatives to sit on particular advisory bodies, having regard to their nature and Terms of Reference. He had reservation on making it a standard practice for all advisory bodies to adopt a nomination mechanism. A member remarked that nomination mechanism and the present appointment system were not mutually exclusive. Adoption of the former did not imply elimination of the latter.

Hospital Authority (HA)

7. Representative of HA informed members that one of the missions of HA was to encourage public participation in its work and plans. This was evident by the fact that the HA Board comprised members with wide community interests. Moreover, representatives of the public sat on Hospital Governing Committees and Regional Advisory Committees of HA. To increase its transparency, HA had adopted various measures. Since 1995, press briefings were held after each HA Plenary Meeting. Public meetings of the HA Board to gauge the views of public on the services of HA and its Annual Plans were held twice a year. Each hospital cluster in HA also organised open public meetings on a regular basis. These public meetings, together with organisation of Community Focus Group meetings and other public forums, were effective communication channels to publicize the work of HA and solicit public views on its services. Furthermore, HA was the first public organisation to publish its Annual Plans to report on its work since 1992. A Community and Patient Health Resources Centre, where the agendas and minutes (except those containing confidential information) of HA meetings were made available for public inspection, was recently established in the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital. Similar information had also been uploaded onto the Internet since August 1996.

8. A member commented that while HA had made a lot of improvement in cost control and service to the public, it should enhance its transparency by opening its Plenary Meetings to the public. Representative of HA responded that HA had recently considered relevant extracts of the LegCo motion debate on the subject on 8 May 1996. It was the HA Board’s decision that the existing transparency measures should be maintained. The agendas of Plenary Meetings were usually quite substantial, the discussions on which could last for six to seven hours. Open meetings might lead to even longer proceeding and hinder the free flow of ideas. The member opined that holding of open meetings should not present difficulty to HA, as more than half of its members had acquired similar experience in other forums. The Subcommittee requested HA to re-consider opening up its Plenary Meetings to the public. Representative of HA responded that, to his knowledge, the issue of holding open meetings would be reviewed on a regular basis by the HA Board.

9. A member observed that out of 26 members on HA Board, there was only one patient group representative. He commented that there should be more such representatives on the Board. Representative of HWB responded that the appointment of members to the HA Board was made on an ad personam basis, although HWB would try to maintain a balanced mix of representatives from different sectors. He agreed to consider the suggestion of appointing more representatives of patient groups to the HA Board, subject to the availability of suitable candidates.Admin

Rehabilitation Advisory Committee

10. Representative of HWB informed members that RAC had considered in August 1996 relevant extracts of the LegCo motion debate on the subject on 8 May 1996. At that time, RAC considered that open meetings might hinder frank discussion. Some issues discussed by RAC involved sensitive or incomplete information on policy proposals, premature disclosure of which might cause confusion to the public. Holding press briefings or issuing press releases after meetings were considered more appropriate. RAC would consider the standing orders of ADC and the views of this Subcommittee at its coming meeting.

11. As regards a member’s suggestion of a nomination mechanism for RAC, representative of HWB stated that there were already representatives of each category of disability on RAC. Although he personally had reservation on the technical feasibility of such a mechanism, he would refer the suggestion to RAC.Admin.

Social Welfare Advisory Committee

12. In response to members, representative of HWB said that it had always been the practice for the Chairman of SWAC to brief the media after each meeting and that SWAC opened its meeting to the public for the first time when it discussed the 1996 Policy Commitments on welfare. Public responses were good and SWAC would consider holding similar open meetings in the future where appropriate. A member suggested SWAC to consider holding open meetings on the 1996 progress report on welfare.

13. In response to a member’s request for nomination mechanism in SWAC, representative of HWB said that while such mechanism was not adopted for SWAC, representatives of various NGOs including the Hong Kong Council of Social Service were appointed to it in a personal capacity. Such arrangements had the added benefit of these representatives presenting their own personal views as well as those of their organizations.

III. Dates of subsequent meetings

14. Members noted that the next meeting to examine advisory bodies relating to home affairs would be held on 28 January 1997 at 10:45 am. It was agreed that those relating to Transport Branch, particularly the Transport Advisory Committee, would also be reviewed at that meeting. The following meeting would be held on 18 February 1997 at 2:30 pm to examine advisory bodies relating to planning, environment, lands and security. Members further agreed to hold a meeting at 10:45 am on 24 February 1997 to finalize the Subcommittee’s report for consideration by the Home Affairs Panel at its meeting on 28 February 1997.

(Post-meeting note : The meeting on 28 January 1997 was re-scheduled to 27 January 1997 at 10:45 am on the instruction of the Chairman)

15. The meeting ended at 6:00 pm.

LegCo Secretariat
25 January 1997

Last Updated on 19 August 1998