Ref : CB2/PS/9
LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 186/96-97
(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 Monday, 30 September 1996 at 10:45 a.m.
in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai (Chairman)
    Hon LEE Wing-tat (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling

Public Officers Attending:

Mr Carlson CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
Miss Petty LAI
Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Anna LO
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Mr Stephen LAM
Assistant Legal Adviser 4
Mr Raymond LAM
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6

I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1702/95-96)

The minutes of the meeting held on 7 June 1996 were confirmed.

II. Meeting with the Administration

(Appendix I to LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 1853/95-96 and CB(2) 1892/95-96, LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 2200/95-96 and CB(2) 2213/95-96)

2. Mr Carlson CHAN highlighted the salient points of the paper provided by the Administration (Appendix I to LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 1853/95-96 and CB(2) 1892/95-96) and the updated Annex E to the paper (LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2200/95-96). He stated that the Home Affairs Branch was playing a co-ordinating role in the compilation of the annex. In updating the annexes to the Administration’s paper, the total number of advisory bodies had been reduced from 295 to 288, as some boards and committees in the annexes were found to be not of advisory nature. Since the District Boards, District Fight Crime Committees, and Area Committees were all counted once in the annexes, the total number of advisory bodies listed in the annexes was only 181. There was an overall increase in the number of bodies holding press briefings, issuing press releases, or making papers/reports available to the public. The number of bodies which had not adopted any transparency measures had also decreased from 25 to seven.

Membership of advisory bodies

(a) Composition

3. Members generally shared the view that advisory bodies should have a cross-section representation comprising the following sectors:

  1. Industrial, commercial and financial sectors
  2. The professions
  3. Labour, social services, religious and other sectors
  4. Political figures

4. Dr John TSE commented that the Administration should have some basic nomination principles and develop a formula for representation of the four categories on each advisory body. An implementation time-table should also be drawn up. Mr LEE Wing-tat pointed out that the Acting Secretary for Home Affairs, at the motion debate on 8 May 1996, stated that due regard was given to the need to ensure a good balance of expertise, experience and background in the membership of advisory bodies. However, such balance was not found in the boards of Mass Transit Railway Corporation, Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, and Airport Authority, where there were no grass-root representatives. He added that the Administration had not, in its response to his questions tabled at the meeting on 24 May 1996 (LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1852/95-96), classified the membership into the four categories as requested. Such classification should not be difficult. Quoting himself as an example, he was classified by the Housing Authority as a grass-root representative.

5. In response, Mr Carlson CHAN stated that the appointment of members to advisory bodies was based on the merits of individuals concerned, taking into account their personal suitability, expertise, experience, and commitment to public service. Imposing restrictions on the composition and representation of the membership would result in undue rigidity in the appointment system. It was also difficult to categorise based on the background of members, as some people might have multiple roles; thus fall into more than one category. In making appointments, consideration was given to the nature and function of each individual body. Boards and committees advising on specialised matters would usually need a greater proportion of persons with the necessary expertise.

(b) Nomination mechanism

6. Mr Carlson CHAN informed members that professional bodies or other organisations were in some cases invited to nominate members to the advisory bodies in which they have a direct and clear interest. About sixty boards or committees were adopting such a mechanism. However, a common problem with this mechanism was the identification of suitable organisations which could represent categorically the interests of the concerned sectors.

7. As regards the nomination mechanism for social welfare related bodies suggested in the submission of Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) (LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2109/95-96), Mr Carlson CHAN stated that while members of these bodies were appointed by the Governor, a number of HKCSS members had actually been appointed in their personal capacity to these bodies. He reiterated the Chief Secretary’s earlier reply to HKCSS that the present appointment system was functioning well.

8. Members generally felt that the mechanism of nomination by interested organisations, which would enhance the representation of advisory bodies, could be extended to more advisory bodies such as the Access of the Disabled Committee, Advisory Committee on Social Work Training & Manpower Planning, and Advisory Council on Aids etc. The Chairman asked the Administration to provide a list of bodies that could adopt such nomination mechanism. The problem of inadequate seats for all interested parties could be overcome as interested arts groups had solved such a problem in the Arts Development Council (ADC).


Open meetings

9. In response to members, Mr Carlson CHAN stated that District Boards (DB) had established mechanisms to display notices of DB meetings at District Offices. The Administration had provided the standing orders of the ADC, which set out procedures on open meetings, to all advisory bodies for reference. He said generally people were more at ease to express freely at closed meetings. Whether proposals and recommendations emerging from advisory bodies were adopted was a matter entirely for the Administration. Policy decisions eventually rested with the relevant policy branches. Members of the advisory bodies should not be subject to the same degree of public scrutiny as those of the three-tiers of representative government.

10. Mr LEE Wing-tat reiterated that, as a general rule, meetings of advisory bodies should be open to the public. While discussions on items relating to sensitive matters such as tenders could be closed, other parts of the meeting and the agenda items should be open to the public. He added that with the Housing Authority, confidential papers such as tender documents were de-classified after a certain period of time. Dr John TSE remarked that there should be a mechanism, such as regular announcement in newspapers, whereby the public were made aware of the notice of meetings of advisory bodies.

Legal Service Division’s advice on the statutory requirement to open all LegCo meetings to the public

11. Members noted the LegCo Legal Service Division’s report (Appendix II to LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1853/95-96) on the statutory requirement to open all meetings of LegCo to the public.

Way forward

12. Members agreed to examine the transparency measures and representation of the advisory boards and committees by policy areas, inviting the respective Policy Secretaries to monthly meetings of the Subcommittee. Members requested the Administration to provide the following information on the boards and committees to be reviewed at each meeting:

  1. an updated position on the transparency measures. An explanation should be given for each of those boards and committees which did not hold open meetings;
  2. a membership list of each board and committee with the background of individual members. As far as possible it should be indicated which of the following categories each member represented:
    1. Industrial, commercial and financial sectors
    2. The professions
    3. Labour, social services, religious and other sectors
    4. Political figures
  3. whether there was a nomination mechanism by interested parties for the membership of each board and committee; if not, could this be set up? Had there been requests from interested parties to set up such a mechanism? (the Arts Development Council had set up such a nomination mechanism whereby 9 out of 22 members were nominations from the arts community for appointment by the Governor.)

III. Date of next meeting

13. The next meeting would be held at 10:45 a.m. on 1 November 1996 to discuss advisory bodies relating to manpower.

(Post-meeting note : With the concurrence of the Chairman, the next meeting was re-scheduled to 8:30 a.m. on 31 October 1996.)

14. The meeting ended at 12:10 p.m.

LegCo Secretariat
22 October 1996

Last Updated on 19 August 1998