LC Paper No. FC 62
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/F/1/2

Finance Committee of the Provisional Legislative Council

Minutes of the meeting
held at the Legislative Council Chamber
on Friday, 31 October 1997, at 2:30 pm

Members present:

Hon Henry WU (Deputy Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon NG Leung-sing
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon Allen LEE, JP
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon NGAI Shiu-kit, JP
Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Dr Hon Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon TSANG Yok-sing
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon LAU Wong-fat, JP
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun, JP
Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting
Hon KAN Fook-yee
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members absent :

Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP (Chairman)
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP
Hon Mrs Peggy LAM, JP
Hon LEUNG Chun-ying, JP
Hon MOK Ying-fan
Hon HUI Yin-fat, JP
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
Hon CHIM Pui-chung
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon LO Suk-ching
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Public officers attending :

Secretary for the Treasury

Mrs Carrie LAM, JP
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury

Principal Executive Officer (General), Finance Bureau

Ms Ellen CHOY
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (2)

Assistant Director of Education

Principal Curriculum Planning Officer

Ms Esther LEUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (4)

Mrs Jenny CHAN
Assistant Commissioner for Labour

Mr Robin IP
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Mr LEE Lap-sun, JP
Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs

Miss Shirley YUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Miss Angela LUK
Assistant Director of Home Affairs

Mrs Rosanna MAK
Assistant Director of Information Technology Services

Mr LI Wing
Chief Electoral Officer

Clerk in attendance :

Ms Pauline NG
Assistant Secretary General 1

Staff in attendance :

Mrs Vivian KAM
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)5

Mr Matthew LOO
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)7

As the Chairman, Mr Ronald ARCULLI, was not in Hong Kong, the Deputy Chairman, Mr Henry WU, chaired the meeting.

Item No. 1 - FCR(97-98)45

2.The Committee approved the proposal.

Item No. 2 - FCR(97-98)47

--Subhead 700 General other non-recurrent
Introducing a new technical curriculum in prevocational and secondary technical schools

3.While welcoming the proposal for introducing a new technical curriculum in prevocational and secondary technical schools, members questioned whether there would be adequate trained teachers to teach the new and updated business and technological subjects.

4.The Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (2) (PAS/E&M(2)) and the Assistant Director of Education (AD of E) assured members that adequate training for teachers would be provided in the form of retraining courses for serving teachers and the addition of new curriculum in teacher training programmes in the tertiary institutions. As the curriculum being proposed for prevocational and secondary technical schools was not entirely new and included updating for certain subjects, the Administration was confident that teachers so trained would be capable of teaching the new subjects.

5.A member noticed that the special rooms/workshops for subjects such as woodwork, metalwork, engine studies and fabrication studies would be converted to computer laboratories and cautioned that these subjects might still be necessary despite the economic restructuring. Some members also pointed out that the computer training provided in prevocational schools should be more technical-based than that provided in ordinary grammar schools and the curriculum should be tailored to meet the practical needs of the relevant industries. In response, the Principal Curriculum Planning Officer (PCPO) said that the equipment and facilities for some existing subjects would be retained although the focus would be shifted towards high technological subjects to meet the changing needs of the community. PAS/E&M(2) added that the Administration was also aware of the need to vary the technical content in the curriculum of different types of schools. While training in information technology would be provided in all schools, the emphasis would vary according to the curriculum, for instance in prevocational and technical secondary schools, information technology would be used to teach business and technological subjects. She assured members that the Administration would ensure that the curriculum would be kept in pace with the advancement of technology. The setting up of information technology learning centres in schools since 1996 was one way to achieve this objective.

6.As regards the cost of the production of teaching and learning materials for each subject, PCPO advised that the estimate of $21.4 million was for 16 new and updated subjects based on actual costs of commissioning a local tertiary institution to undertake a similar task in a recent exercise. The cost for each subject would vary and would depend on the outcome of the tender exercise. The estimated cost for each subject would be in the region of $1.3 million inclusive of the production costs for 100 sets of teaching and learning materials. He nevertheless agreed that the reproduction cost should be significantly lower than the production cost and that such information should be duly reflected in the paper. AD of E affirmed in response to a member that the teaching and learning materials would be produced locally to suit local needs, and that the two sets of materials would be complementary to each other.

7.The Committee approved the proposal.

Item No. 3 - FCR(97-98)48
--Subhead 700 General other non-recurrent
New item " Grant to the Pneumoconiosis Ex Gratia Fund "

8.In response to members' questions, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (4) (PAS/E&M(4)) highlighted the major improvements proposed for the pre-1981 pneumoconiotics under the Pneumoconiosis Ex Gratia Fund scheme. The proposals sought to bring the benefits available to the pre-1981 pneumoconiotics into line with those for the post-1981 pneumoconiotics under the Pneumoconiosis (Compensation) Ordinance (PCO) scheme. The pre- and post-1981 pneumoconiotics were provided compensation under two separate schemes -- the Ex Gratia Fund scheme which was fully funded by the Government, and the PCO scheme which was financed by a levy on the construction and quarrying industries.

9.Members supported the proposal to align the benefits under the two schemes but queried whether the net increase in benefits to the individuals would be substantial. Members pointed out that while the pneumoconiotics were eligible for a monthly care and attention payment of $4,050 subject to medical advice, and a $2,570 payment for pain, suffering and loss of amenities across-the-board, the original quarterly payments at a monthly rate of $3,950 would be reduced. PAS(EM)4 explained that the monthly payment for incapacity under the statutory scheme and the ex-gratia scheme were calculated using two different methods. Under the former scheme, it was primarily based on the degree of permanent incapacity or an increase in the degree of incapacity. Under the ex-gratia scheme, it was a flat rate payable to all pre-1981 pneumoconiotics regardless of their degree of incapacity. However, as the revised monthly payment of $1,530 was drawn up with reference to the average monthly payment received by the group of post-1981 pneumoconiotics under the statutory scheme who were in a situation similar to the pre-1981 pneumoconiotics under the ex-gratia scheme, the average actual amount of payment for incapacity received by these two groups should be similar. Some members asked if flexibility would be allowed on the medical assessment to confirm whether the pneumoconiotic was eligible to receive the payment for care and attention, bearing in mind that there were only 400 such pneumoconiotics and that this number might decrease with the deterioration in their health conditions. In response, PAS(E&M)(4) explained that the same medical assessment (and the flexibility which went with it) in respect of this payment item under the statutory scheme would also be applied to the improved ex-gratia scheme.

10.A member asked if the payment for pain, suffering and loss of amenities could be adjusted according to inflation annually instead of biennially since the quarterly payments under the present ex gratia scheme were adjusted once every year. PAS(E&M)(4) explained that since the purpose of the current proposal was to bring the compensation under the two schemes in line with each other, the level of each benefit item under the revised ex-gratia scheme would be adjusted biennially just like the statutory scheme. She assured the member that in reviewing the amount of payments, the effect of inflation during the relevant two-year period would be taken into account.

11.Some members suggested that a lenient approach should be adopted for the payment of the death grant as regards the cause of death as some pneumoconiotics would die of complications rather than of pneumoconiosis. In response, PAS/E&M(4) and the Assistant Commissioner for Labour (AC for L) said that the same degree of flexibility in assessing the cause of death would be adopted by the medical profession for the purpose of payment of the death grant for both the pre-1981 and the post-1981 pneumoconiotics. The Administration would duly consider members' views at the next review of the schemes.

12.On the number of pre-1981 pneumoconiotics who would be eligible for the care and attention payment of $4,050 a month, PAS/E&M(4) advised that the percentage share of the post-1981 pneumoconiotics who were eligible to this payment was about 2.6%. A member remarked that the estimate was too conservative. He also saw a need for further improving the scope of benefits for the pneumoconiotics. PAS/E&M(4) affirmed that the Administration would review the level of benefits on the basis of actual experience after the improvement package. 13.As regards the views of the Labour Advisory Board on the proposed improvements, AC for L said that the Board had only raised concern over the monthly vis-a-vis the quarterly payment of benefits but this apart, they found the improvements agreeable.

14.In view of members' concern about the death grant and the need for further improvements under the two schemes, the Chairman advised that the subject should be followed up by the relevant Panel.

15.The Committee approved the proposal.

Item No. 4 - FCR(97-98)46

--Subhead 001 Salaries
--Subhead 258 Election expenses
Registration and Electoral Office
--New Subhead " Enhancement to the Electoral and Registration System "
--Subhead 001 Salaries

16.Members noted that the increase in resources sought was almost ten times the current provision for the Registration and Electoral Office (REO). They sought elaboration on the need for the additional 1 096 posts and a comparison with the work involved in the last Legislative Council (LegCo) election in 1995. In response, the Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (DS/CA) and the Chief Electoral Officer provided the following information -

  1. The resources for the election of the first LegCo of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 1998 were based primarily on those for the 1995 LegCo election but regard was also given to the new and special requirements for the upcoming elections including the need for election of members of the Election Committee (EC). Therefore, the increase in resources proposed was necessary and justified;

  2. Major and new items of expenditure to be incurred in the 1998 elections included postage, an intensive household visit programme for voter registration at the district level, election of members of the EC, and a major voter registration drive for the LegCo Functional Constituencies (FC). The inflationary factor also had to be taken into account;

  3. Detailed descriptions of the duties and responsibilities of the 1 096 posts for 1997-98, as well as another 144 posts for 1998-99 for the checking of election expenses incurred by candidates, were as outlined in Enclosure 1 to the discussion paper. In particular, the 628 posts for voter registration and compilation of registers of electors included registration of voters for both FC and Geographical Constituencies (GC), and the 378 posts for preparation work included preparation for the election of both the EC and LegCo. The overall staffing requirement for the 1998 elections was more than that for the last LegCo election in 1995 on account of a relatively shorter period for preparatory work. Posts currently sought would only be created for certain specified periods and would be deleted once they were no longer required;

  4. The 65 staff required for identifying venues for setting up polling and counting stations would also arrange for the actual setting-up of the stations. The decision on the number of polling stations for election of the EC and the LegCo and related details would be made by the Electoral Affairs Commission.

17.On the aspect of voter registration, the Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs explained that a massive door-to-door household visit exercise would be launched between 6 to 12 December 1997. About 30 000 persons composed mainly of students, teachers and temporary community organisers would be mobilized both to encourage eligible persons to register as electors and to update the existing electoral roll. The household visits would also provide an opportunity for students to know more about the election, hence enhancing their civic education. Honorarium at the rate of $1,000 for students and $1,500 for their supervisors would be payable for work on the first two days of the voter registration week, and adequate training would be provided to ensure the accuracy of data collected and the safety of these persons. While the Administration would exert its best efforts in voter registration and launch publicity to tie in with the registration exercise, it was not possible to give an estimate on the number of voters who would be so registered, as the decision ultimately rested with the eligible voters.

18.Responding to a member's concern on the apparent concentration of resources on voter registration for the GC which might affect the registration exercise for FC voters, DS/CA clarified that the Administration placed equal emphasis on voter registration for both categories of constituencies. The strategy for FC was to reach out to eligible voters by direct mail, while for the GC, more media publicity would be required. He assured that clear guidelines would be issued to explain to voters which constituencies they would be eligible for.

19.The Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs supplemented that details regarding voter registration would be discussed at the next meeting of the Constitutional Affairs Panel on 7 November 1997. The Chairman advised that members who were interested could follow-up the policy issues at that meeting.

20.In response to a member on the possibility of enhancing the Electoral and Registration System to facilitate the mailing of voter registration and election related materials, the Assistant Director of Information Technology Services confirmed that the member's suggestion would be duly considered.

21.The Committee approved the proposal.

22.The Committee was adjourned at 4:30 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
20 November 1997