Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. 419/96-97(01)

Ref : PLC/FC/4

Finance Committee of the Provisional Legislative Council
Minutes of the meeting held at the Main Hall, Huaxia Art Centre, Shenzhen on Saturday, 24 May 1997 at 2:30 p.m.

Members present:

The Honourable ARCULLI, Ronald (Chairman)
The Honourable WU, Henry (Deputy Chairman)
The Honourable HO Sai-chu
Dr the Honourable HO Chung-tai
The Honourable NG Leung-sing
Prof the Honourable NG Ching-fai
The Honourable Mrs TU, Elsie
The Honourable Mrs LAM, Peggy
The Honourable Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin
The Honourable Mrs LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, Sophie
The Honourable HUI Yin-fat
The Honourable CHAN Choi-hi
The Honourable CHAN Yuen-han
The Honourable CHAN Wing-chan
The Honourable YEUNG Chun-kam
The Honourable YEUNG Yiu-chung
The Honourable IP Kwok-him
The Honourable LAU Kong-wah
The Honourable LAU Wong-fat
The Honourable LAU Hon-chuen, Ambrose
The Honourable CHOY Kan-pui
Dr the Honourable TANG Siu-tong
The Honourable NGAN Kam-chuen
The Honourable TAM Wai-chu, Maria
The Honourable TAM Yiu-chung

Members absent :

The Honourable WONG Siu-yee
The Honourable TIEN Pei-chun, James
The Honourable CHU Yu-lin, David
The Honourable HO Sing-tin, Edward
The Honourable LI Ka-cheung, Eric
The Honourable LI Kwok-po, David
The Honourable LEE Kai-ming
The Honourable LEE Peng-fei, Allen
The Honourable Mrs CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, Selina
The Honourable NGAI Shiu-kit
The Honourable TANG Ying-yen, Henry
The Honourable YUEN Mo
The Honourable MA Fung-kwok
The Honourable CHEUNG Hon-chung
The Honourable LEUNG Chun-ying
Dr the Honourable LEONG Che-hung
The Honourable MOK Ying-fan
The Honourable CHAN Kam-lam
The Honourable TSANG Yok-sing
The Honourable CHENG Kai-nam
The Honourable FUNG Kin-kee, Frederick
The Honourable WONG Wang-fat, Andrew
Dr the Honourable WONG Yu-hong, Philip
The Honourable WONG Ying-ho, Kennedy
The Honourable YOUNG, Howard
The Honourable CHIM Pui-chung
The Honourable LIU Sing-lee, Bruce
The Honourable Mrs LAU Kin-yee, Miriam
The Honourable CHENG Ming-fun, Paul
The Honourable CHENG Yiu-tong
The Honourable FOK Tsun-ting, Timothy
The Honourable KAN Fook-yee
The Honourable LO Suk-ching
Dr the Honourable LAW Cheung-kwok

By invitation :

Ms Cherry LING    Deputy Director
    Chief Executive's Office

Clerk in attendance :

Ms Pauline NG    Clerk to the Finance Committee

Staff in attendance :

Mr Arthur CHEUNG    Legal Adviser
Mr YUEN Leung-fai    Assistant Committee Clerk 6

I.Adoption of the Finance Committee Procedure

(PLC Paper No. 259/96-97 (01))

The Chairman invited members to comment on the Finance Committee Procedure (the Procedure) and put to vote the adoption of the Procedure. Members voted on the motion and the Procedure was adopted.

II.Examination of the Transitional Budget for 1997-98

2.The Chairman welcomed Ms Cherry LING, Deputy Director, Chief Executive's Office (DD/CEO) and invited her to brief members on the transitional budget for 1997-98. Having briefly summarized members's major concern on the transitional budget for 1997-98 as reflected in the written questions, DD/CEO said that supplementary answers could be provided in writing after the meeting if further clarification from policy branches and departments was required.

3.The Chairman invited members to raise questions.


4.Regarding the projected population growth by 2006 and how far its impact had been taken into account in the Government's house production targets, DD/CEO informed members that the projected population growth by 2006 was 8.2 million. She further explained Government's targets of producing 511,000 units by 2001 comprised of 141,000 rented public housing units, 175,000 flats in the home ownership and private sector participation schemes and 195,000 flats to be provided by private developers. These figures however were only indicative for planning purposes as there were so many variables which might affect their accuracy. For example, eligibility for public housing would depend on the ceiling of family income which was determined on the basis of various factors, such as inflation.

5.A member pointed out that speeding up redevelopment of old residential areas would increase the supply of residential flats, hence alleviating the inadequacy of housing in Hong Kong and stabilizing the market prices of residential flats. One of the measures to speed up the process was to streamline the vetting and approving procedures in processing applications for redeveloping old areas. He questioned if the targets in the production of public and private residential flats had taken into account the accelerated vetting process. DD/CEO emphasised that the Government had adopted a three-pronged approach on this important issue. First, the Financial Secretary had set up a task force to look at land supply and infrastructure related to housing development. Secondly, the Housing Branch was working closely with private developers with a view to speeding up housing development and to resolve site-specific problems swiftly. Thirdly, the Chief Executive had commissioned Hon LEUNG Chun-ying to conduct an overall review on the supply of land and the production of residential flats. On the target increase of residential flats, DD/CEO informed members that the Government planned to identify adequate land for building 195,000 units of private residential flats by 2001.


6.On the Government's target of achieving full establishment of graduate teachers in primary schools and the percentage increase of graduate teacher in 1997-98, DD/CEO said that the increase of 350 graduate teachers in 1997-98 represented about 1% of the total establishment of teachers in primary schools and full establishment of graduate teachers could only be achieved by 2007. Nevertheless, DD/CEO emphasised that the Chief Executive had commissioned Mr Antony LEUNG Kam-chung to review different aspects of Hong Kong education. Provision of graduate teachers for primary schools would be one of the aspects to be addressed in the review.

7.On the enhancement of civic education in primary and secondary schools, DD/CEO responded that the Education Department had earmarked $11.2 million in its budget to promote civic education in primary and secondary schools. The scope of the expenditure included awarding grants to schools, providing on-the-job training for teachers, conducting reviews on the guidelines of the curriculum and improving teaching aids and school facilities relating to civic education.

8.As for Government's effort to encourage youths between 15 and 18 years of age to attend adult education courses after finishing the 9-year compulsory education, DD/CEO pointed out that what the Government could do was to publicize the availability of adult education courses for those who were interested in continuing their studies. In this connection, the 19 offices of the Education Department helped disseminate relevant information, including information on adult education, to schools, teachers, parents and students.

Health and Welfare

School social workers 9.A member expressed concern about the target of achieving one social worker for one school. DD/CEO stressed that this policy had not been changed. In fact, the provision and role of social workers in schools had come up during the study on education policy currently conducted by Mr Antony LEUNG Kam-chung. Questions were raised on the roles of teachers vis-a-vis school social workers and what their interface should be.

Services for the elderly

10.Members stressed the importance of medical services being available for elderly recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) residing in Guangdong and pointed out that it would not be realistic to rely solely on the assistance of Red Cross which carried out only random checks of the elderly dwelling in Guangdong. The practical difficulty of the arrangement was that contacts with the elderly from Hong Kong by the Red Cross were not recognized by the Guangdong authorities which often stressed that such contacts ought to channel through the local government. In this respect, Hon TAM Yiu-chung informed members that he had made initial contacts with the health authority of the Guangdong Province on this subject and he was confident that some satisfactory arrangements would be worked out after reviewing the present practices and the needs of the elderly.

11.As to whether there were plans to increase the rate of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance for the elderly, DD/CEO explained that an increase had already been made in 1996-97 and the Government's priority in 1997-98 was on the improvement of services. She understood that Government had plans to increase the number of homes for the aged and care-and-attention centres, and to extend the scope of community support services for the elderly. Hon TAM Yiu-chung added that the review which he was currently conducting also focused on the financial assistance and different aspects of the services for the elderly.

12.On the locations of the four elderly centres expected to be completed by 1998, DD/CEO agreed to provide further information after the meeting.

Health services

13.Regarding the strengthening of health services for students and the provisions available to enhance preventive measures on contagious and infectious diseases, DD/CEO advised that new programmes would include preventive vaccination and more publicity on personal hygiene.

14.On the trend of infectious diseases, DD/CEO confirmed that according to statistics provided by the Health Department, there was no indication that cases of infectious disease were in an upward trend. She would provide statistics on some major infectious diseases in the past three years after the meeting.

Environmental protection

15.A member stressed that provision should be made to enhance public awareness on producing lesser waste which he considered would be a more effective means to reduce the volume of daily refuse at source. DD/CEO advised that the Government intended to seek an additional $285 million to meet payments for contractors in operating new refuse stations (at Island West and West Kowloon) and in handling more waste in 1997-98. On publicity, Government would work together with the two municipal councils and green parties on enhancing public awareness on the importance of reducing daily refuse.

16.DD/CEO noted members' concern over the deficit of the Sewage Services Trading Fund. She pointed out that it was due to the objection by the Hong Kong Legislative Council to the Government's proposals to increase the sewage charge and trade effluent surcharge in 1996-97.

17.A member expressed doubts on the effectiveness of noise abatement walls in reducing traffic noise and asked the Government to make a realistic assessment of the effectiveness of this noise-preventive measure before committing funds onto the construction of a measure which might turn out to be ineffective. DD/CEO undertook to liaise with the Environmental Protection Department and Highways Department for an assessment on the effectiveness of noise abatement walls, the locations where such walls would be built and the financial provisions for these projects in 1997-98.

18.Upon the request of a member, DD/CEO would provide in writing further information relating to tests of water from Dong Jiang.

19.On the feasibility of introducing vehicles using LP gas as fuel, members noted that one of the problems which hindered the development of this new technology was the current restrictions on the carrying of dangerous goods on vehicles as LP gas was also classified as one form of dangerous goods. Vehicles using LP gas as fuel would contravene the rules and regulations governing the use of cross harbour tunnels and would impose problems to taxis in respect of licensing. Further studies would be required to ascertain the need for amending existing laws before the introduction of LP gas vehicles to Hong Kong. DD/CEO pointed out that the Government had in principle supported the use of electrical vehicles on environmental grounds. However, this would not be feasible in the near future because this kind of vehicles had its own technical problems such as the need for charging the batteries after around 100 to 150 Kilometers. Associated problems like the number and locations of battery charging stations, traffic control outside these stations required further studies. Meanwhile, Government was ascertaining more information on the technology of these new developments from Japan.

20.A member cautioned that disposal of radioactive and industrial waste should be carefully handled and suggested to work out a disposal site jointly with the Chinese Government. DD/CEO disclosed that Government planned to resite the existing store of radio-active substances at Queen's Road East to Soko Islands. Estimated cost of the project was about $90 million. She would relay the suggestion of working out a joint disposal site with the Chinese Government to the Environmental Protection Department for consideration. Nevertheless, this would be a sensitive subject because of the nature of the waste substances.


Dangerous slopes

21.On the stabilization of dangerous slopes territory-wide, DD/CEO advised that the costing for stabilizing private slopes was not available as slopes within private lots were the responsibilities of individual lot owners. Nevertheless, DD/CEO undertook to provide further information on the provisions for maintenance of dangerous slopes by Government departments.

22.In this respect, a member pointed out that even for dangerous slopes within private lots, the assessment of the risk level of the slopes also demanded a high degree of Government expertise. He enquired if there was adequate manpower to cope with the demand in workload particularly as the rainny season was approaching. DD/CEO explained that Government's current priority was accorded to high risk dangerous slopes and those which might affect schools. The Drainage Services Department and the Water Supplies Department had commissioned two consultancy studies totalling $160 million to study the impact on slopes of underground pipes and sewage drainage laid by the Government.

23.On future improvements to traffic flow outside the Convention Centre in Wan Chai when its second stage was commissioned, DD/CEO agreed to check the traffic improvement plans in the vicinity.

Expenditure pattern on capital works

24.Regarding the expenditure pattern of different categories of capital works, DD/CEO explained that it was difficult to draw a meaningful comparison of the costing of different categories of capital works as the expenditure on capital works projects was one-off in nature and approved on needs basis.

25.On the question of underspending of capital works, DD/CEO stressed that the Government had taken effective measures to prevent significant underspending in capital projects. The percentage of underspending had dropped sharply from 35% in 1991-92 to about 6% in 1996-97. This would enable Government to better deploy the available resources.

Other services

26.On 999 call service, DD/CEO confirmed that there were no statistics to record the number of calls in respect of which pre-recorded message requested the callers to wait for their turn. She agreed to convey to the Hong Kong Police Force members' request to keep statistics on the number of calls which could not be attended to immediately.

27.The Chairman thanked DD/CEO for her clarification on the transitional budget for 1997-98. He continued to say that a copy of the Finance Committee report should be tabled in the Provisional Legislative Council meeting on 7 June 1997 and the Director, Chief Executive's Office would be informed that the debate on her motion on the transitional budget for 1997-98 could be resumed at the same meeting of the Council. Members's views expressed at the meeting should serve as useful reference points for drawing up the budget for 1998-99.

III.Any Other Business

28.There being no other business, the meeting ended at 4 p.m.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
17 June 1997

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