PLC Paper No. 203/96-97
Ref : PLC/WG/2/1
House Committee meeting on 10 May 1997
Consultation Paper on
House Rules in respect of Members' Motions
Objects of the Bills
The Working Group on Rules of Procedure (the Working Group) is in the process of drafting the House Rules for the Council and its committees. The Paper outlines the Working Group's deliberations on the in-house arrangements in respect of motion debates initiated by individual Members at the Provisional Legislative Council (the Council) meetings during the period before 1 July 1997 and invites Members' views on some such deliberations of the Working Group as outlined in para 15 below.
Principles governing the moving of Members' Motions
2.One of the terms of reference of the Working Group is to draft and to recommend guidelines for internal practices for use by the Council and its committees/working groups in the conduct of their business. Accordingly, the Working Group drafted the Rules of Procedure of the Council, which have been adopted for use by resolution in the Council. At the House Committee meeting held on 26 April 1997, Members considered that there was a need to formulate House Rules and the Working Group agreed to take on the assignment. In reviewing the in-house arrangements on the moving of motions initiated by individual Members, the Working Group observes that notices of motions from individual Members are being received and the arrangements for the period between now and 1 July 1997 deserve special consideration.
Present Position and Deliberations of the Working Group
3.In drafting the House Rules, the Working Group intends to apply the same set of drafting principles which has been applied to the Rules of Procedure, one of which is that such Rules should cover the entire Council session, whether before or after 1 July 1997.
4.In considering the subject of debates, in particular the number of debates initiated by individual Members at each regular Council meeting, the Working Group makes reference to the present practice of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and notes that it has allowed for not more than two motion debates or two adjournment debates or one motion debate and one adjournment debate to be held at each regular sitting. The Working Group understands that the arrangement is working well, and considers that it would be appropriate for the Council to adopt the same arrangement.
5.However, the Working Group also realizes that the priority of work of the Council before 1 July 1997 is on the processing of essential legislation that must be put in place on 1 July 1997. The work involved is both heavy in load and urgent in nature. The Working Group considers that the situation of the Council before 1 July 1997 warrants special consideration and suggests that there would be merits for not holding more than one motion/adjournment debate at each regular meeting between now and 1 July 1997. The Working Group is of the opinion that such a proposal would enable Members to exercise their right to raise any topic for debate during a Council meeting on the one hand and allow time for the Council to give due attention to the more urgent and heavy workload of the Council in respect of legislation on the other.
Views of the Working Group
6.As far as the number of debates that could be initiated by Members (other than those moved on behalf of a working group or a committee of the Council) at each regular Council meeting is concerned, the Working Group has the following views:
For the period up to 1 July 1997
Not more than one motion/ adjournment debate during each regular Council meeting.
For the period after 1 July 1997
Not more than two debates during each regular Council meeting.
7.Nevertheless, the Working Group considers that there should not be any debate on Members' motion at the Council meeting on 7 June 1997 for which the resumption of the budget debate has already been scheduled. In addition, the Working Group also anticipates that the business of the last Council meeting before 1 July 1997, expected to be on 21 June 1997, will be extremely heavy. In order that the processing of the legislation necessary for the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will not be unduly affected because of Members' motions, the Working Group considers that there might be a need to decide nearer the time that no debate on Members' motion will take place at that meeting.
8.The Working Group considers that the normal arrangement for allowing not more than two debates for each regular meeting should be spelt out in the House Rules. But for the suggestion that not more than one motion/adjournment debate should be initiated by individual Members at each regular meeting for the period from now up to 1 July 1997, the Working Group considers that endorsement of the proposed arrangement at a House Committee meeting would suffice.
9.The Working Group suggests that each Member is entitled to one slot for moving one motion debate or adjournment debate within the session, unless there are untaken slots. This suggestion is in line with the existing arrangement of the Hong Kong Legislative Council. If more than the stipulated number of motions have been received in respect of the same Council meeting, allocation will be determined by drawing lots. Members who have been unsuccessful in two or more consecutive ballots will be accorded priority in respect of the one/two slots for debate at a subsequent Council meeting. Priority will be given to the Member who has the highest number of consecutive unsuccessful ballots. The keeping of the unsuccessful ballot records will be made from the first date on which a motion initiated by an individual Member takes place up to the end of the term of the Council.
Notice period for moving a motion at the Council meeting
10.Rule 29(1) of the Rules of Procedure provides that no motion shall be moved in the Council unless notice of it has been given not less than 12 clear days before the day on which the motion is to be considered by the Council or a committee of the Council, provided that the President or Chairman, as the case may be, may in his discretion dispense with such a notice. The application of this Rule will mean that the deadline for giving notice for a motion for the Council meeting , for example, on Saturday, 31 May 1997 will be Friday, 16 May 1997. After receipt of notices from individual Members, the Secretariat will have to draw lots if more than one notice is received, and to seek the President's direction on the motion in accordance with Rule 30(3) of the Rules of Procedure.
11.However, as the House Committee is currently holding its meetings on Saturdays, the same day as Council meetings, it would not be possible for motions entered for the Council meeting on 31 May 1997 to appear on the agenda of the House Committee meeting on 17 May 1997, as explained in Diagram 1 in the Appendix. Since the main purpose of the House Committee meeting on 17 May 1997 is to consider the business of the Council meeting on 31 May 1997, the Working Group considers that some alternative arrangements ought to be made.
12.The Working Group has made reference to the current arrangements in the Hong Kong Legislative Council in respect of application for the allocation of a debate slot, and notes that application for the allocation of a debate slot at a certain Council meeting is closed at a date not less than three weeks in advance of that meeting as notified by the Secretariat. If more than two applications are received in respect of the same meeting, allocation will be determined by drawing lots. However, where a Member requests and the House Committee agrees, priority allocation may be given to debates on urgent, important and topical issues. The Working Group considers that a similar arrangement should be put in place so that the Secretariat of the Council will know in advance which motion debate has been entered on the agenda of the Council meeting when preparing the agenda of the respective House Committee meeting. The proposed arrangement is given in Diagram 2 in the Appendix.
13.Nevertheless, notwithstanding the earlier notice of the motion, the notice period of 12 clear days will remain the same. The Member who has been allocated with a time slot for a motion debate may modify the wording of his motion until the motion is officially filed with the Clerk of the Council within the notice period. As for the Council meeting on 31 May 1997 where the deadline for application of a debate slot is 9 May, the Working Group suggests that some flexible arrangements should be allowed for this specific case, but the application should not be submitted later than the deadline for the submission of the agenda items for the House Committee meeting of 17 May, i.e. 13 May 1997.
14.As for the period after 1 July 1997, since the Council meetings will be held on Wednesdays and not on Saturdays, such a problem will not arise.
15.Members are invited to consider:
- whether there should only be one debate slot for motions initiated by individual Members for the period between now and 1 July 1997 (para 8);
- whether members are agreeable to not holding any debate on Members' motions on 7 June 1997 and, probably, the last meeting of the Council before 1 July 1997 (para 7); and
- whether members are agreeable to the requirements in respect of application for debate slots as spelt out in paragraphs 12 and 13 above.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
6 May 1997