Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2)2928/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/BC/16/98

Legislative Council Bills Committee on Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 1999

Minutes of 24th meeting held on Wednesday, 14 July 1999 at 12:00 noon in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present:

Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP (Chairman)
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon LEE Kai-ming, SBS, JP
Hon NG Leung-sing
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Margaret NG
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Christine LOH
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam, JP
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, GBS, JP

Members Absent :

Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung

Members Attending :

Hon Kenneth TING woo-shou, JP
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon HO Sai-chu, SBS, JP
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, SBS, JP
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Martin LEE Chu-ming, SC, JP
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP

Public Officers Attending :

Mr Robin IP
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Miss Shirley YUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (4)

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Percy MA
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 3

Staff in Attendance :

Mr Jimmy MA, JP
Legal Adviser

Miss Pauline NG
Assistant Secretary General 1

Assistant Secretary General 3

Mr Stephen LAM
Assistant Legal Adviser 4

Mrs Eleanor CHOW
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 7

I. The meeting
(LC Paper No. CB(2)2555/98-99)

The Chairman said that the reason for calling this special meeting was to discuss the Administration's proposal to take over the Committee Stage amendments (CSAs) proposed by Dr LEONG Che-hung and Mr Eric LI respectively. The President hoped that the Bills Committee would decide on whether it would support the Administration's proposal. He further advised that it was in order for Members to withdraw amendments to a bill before they were moved at committee stage, and that it was for the President to decide whether amendments of which sufficient notice had not been given might be moved to a bill.

2. Mr Eric LI said that the Administration had advised him yesterday that it was prepared to take over his amendment on the condition that he would withdraw his CSA. The purpose of his CSA was to provide for the Social Welfare FC to be consisted of social workers registered under the Social Workers Registration Ordinance only. Because of the voting system applicable to Member's CSAs, the amendment, if moved by the Administration, would stand a better chance of being passed. Under the circumstances, he was willing to withdraw his amendment. In the event that the Administration was not granted leave by the President to move the amendment, he would introduce the amendment as originally proposed.

3. At the invitation of the Chairman, Assistant Secretary General 3 (ASG 3) advised that when the District Councils Bill was debated by the Council on 10 March 1999, a Member had sought the President's leave to take over the CSAs withdrawn by two other Members. The President had given special leave for the Member to move the two amendments on the ground that there had been adequate time for LegCo Members to consider the contents of the two amendments. The President had also directed that in future, if a Member wished to support an amendment already proposed by another Member, the Member should also give notice before the specified deadline of the proposed amendment, so as to ensure that the debate on the particular amendment would not be affected even if the other Member withdrew the amendment. ASG 3 further advised that the President had subsequently refused, on three occasions, to grant leave to allow the Administration and individual Members to take over amendments withdrawn by other Members. Following the request made by the Administration yesterday, the President had decided to seek the view of the Bills Committee as to whether the Administration should be allowed to take over the amendments proposed by Mr LI and Dr LEONG if the two Members withdrew their amendments.

4. Dr LEONG Che-hung said that the decision to withdraw his proposed amendment was unrelated to the Administration's proposal. He would explain reasons for his decision when he made his speech at resumption of the Second Reading debate on the Bill. In response to the Chairman, Dr LEONG clarified that he had given notice to move two separate amendments; one was to include Chinese medicine practitioners into the Medical FC and the other was to establish a Chinese Medicine FC to replace the proposed Catering FC. He had given notice to withdraw the first amendment, but he would proceed with the second one.

5. Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (DS for CA) said that the Administration had considered the amendments proposed by the two Members. There were two reasons for the Administration to decide to take over the CSA proposed by Dr LEONG. Firstly, under the existing arrangement, 20 seats each were allocated to the Medical Subsector and the Chinese Medicine Subsector of the Election Committee (EC) respectively. The effect of Dr LEONG's CSA would merge the two Subsectors into a single Medical Subsector comprising 40 seats. The Administration's CSA proposed to preserve the status quo. Secondly, the Administration proposed to add provisions to facilitate the registration of eligible Chinese medicine practitioners in the Medical FC and the Chinese Medicine Subsector so that they could vote at the LegCo election to be held in September 2000. He said that the Administration had discussed with Dr LEONG who had agreed to the CSA proposed by the Administration.

6. Dr LEONG said that he had reached no agreement with the Administration on the matter. He reiterated that the Administration's proposal had no bearing on his decision to withdraw the CSA relating to inclusion of Chinese medicine practitioners into the Medical FC. In response to some Members, he explained that he was only able to announce his decision to the media the previous night after the Council of the Medical Association had adjourned its meeting at about 10:45 pm. He said that he had decided to withdraw the CSA irrespective of whether the Administration would take over it.

7. Dr YEUNG Sum said that although Members of the Democratic Party supported the CSAs proposed by Dr LEONG and Mr LI, they would not support the CSAs if moved by the Administration. He would raise strong objection if the Bills Committee decided at this meeting to recommend to the President that leave be granted to allow the Administration to take over the CSAs. He said that the two Members' CSAs had been discussed at length by the Bills Committee, and that the Administration had all along objected to these CSAs. He was concerned about press reports that the Administration's sudden change of stance was the result of a secret deal between the Administration and the Members concerned. He asked the Administration to clarify whether in approaching the Members concerned, reference was made to Article 74 of the Basic Law (BL 74). Dr YEUNG cautioned that because of the difference between LegCo and the Administration over the position on BL 74, the Bills Committe's agreement to accede to the Administration's request on this occasion would tantamount to accepting that Members were not allowed to introduce CSAs to government's bills. For the integrity of LegCo, he urged the Bills Committee not to support the request of the Administration.

8. DS for CA said that the Administration's position on BL 74 had been made clear to Members, especially the Committee on Rules of Procedure, on numerous occasions. In commenting on the CSAs to be moved by individual Members to the Bill, the Administration had also advised the President of the CSAs which had BL implications. He reiterated that the Administration had proposed to take over the CSAs proposed by the two Members with a view to making modifications to enable the provisions to operate more effectively.

9. Mr Eric LI said that he was approached by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, not DS for CA. Although the implications of BL 74 were mentioned in the conversation, he reiterated that his major concern was to have the CSA passed and he had been doubtful about the chance of his CSA getting passed. Mr LI stressed that he would only withdraw his CSA on the condition that the Administration was granted permission by the President to take over the CSA. His decision was in no way related to the Administration's position on BL 74.

10. Some Members pointed out that the two Members' proposed amendments had been made a long time ago and discussed by the Bills Committee on a number of occasions. Having regard to the Administration's stance on these amendments, they found it difficult to accept the reasons now advanced by the Administration for taking over the CSAs. Mr LEE Wing-tat said that it was deplorable of the Administration to embark on such a course only after it had realized that the CSAs would stand a good chance of getting passed, hence putting the Administration in a difficult position regarding BL 74. Mr Howard YOUNG pointed out that the precedent case quoted by ASG 3 was not applicable to the case in question because the Administration's proposed CSAs were not identical to those proposed by Dr LEONG and Mr LI.

11. Mrs Selina CHOW, in her capacity as the Chairman of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, said that it was the consensus of the LegCo that CSAs relating to "public expenditure or political structure or the operation of the government" could be introduced by Members. BL 74 only applied to Member's bills, not Member's CSAs. She pointed out that it was ultimately a matter for the President to rule whether a CSA could be moved. In the event that a CSA was ruled out of order, the President always gave detailed explanations for her decision. She felt that any CSAs allowed to be moved by the President should be given a chance to be fully debated in the Council. Since this was not the first time that the question of BL 74 was raised by the Administration, she urged Members not to fall prey to its trap. She considered the way the Administration had handled the matter was very unusual and dishonourable.

12. Ms Emily LAU said that the Frontier objected to the Administration's proposal. She concurred with the views of the Democratic Party and Mrs CHOW. She said that Members had yet have an opportunity to scrutinize the CSAs proposed by the Administration which were tabled at the meeting, and it was unfair to expect them to support the amendments at the Council meeting to be resumed in the afternoon.

13. In response to the Chairman, Legal Adviser (LA) said that the Legal Service Division had seen the CSAs proposed by the Administration, but would need more time for detailed scrutiny. Responding to the Administration's earlier comment about Dr LEONG's CSA, LA said that in assisting Members in drafting their CSAs, the Legal Service Division had adopted a very stringent approach and had taken into account any comments made by the Law Drafting Division of the Department of Justice. From a legal point of view, the final version of the CSA was in order. As to whether the CSA proposed by the Administration would improve the efficiency of registration of Chinese medicine practitioners, he would reserve his views until after studying the CSA. On the allocation of seats for the relevant EC subsectors arising from Dr LEONG's CSA, he pointed out this was a policy issue, not a legal issue. As regards the Administration's comment that certain provisions in Mr LI's CSA were unnecessary, he said that this could easily be overcome by the Member withdrawing the relevant provisions before moving the CSA. However, he stressed that such provisions, even if unnecessary, were in order from a legal point of view.

14. Professor NG Ching-fai said that he had a meeting with representatives of Chinese medicine practitioners earlier that day. The representatives hoped that Members would support the establishment of a Chinese Medicine FC, and failing which, the inclusion of Chinese medicine practitioners in the Medical FC. As Dr LEONG had withdrawn the CSA related to the latter at the last minute, and as the deadline for giving notice of CSAs had expired, it was impossible for other Members to help. He hoped that the Bills Committee would take this into account in arriving at any decision.

15. Mr CHENG Kai-nam said that if the Administration's proposed CSA relating to inclusion of Chinese medicine practitioners into the Medical FC represented an improvement, Members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) might support them. However, Members of the DAB had reservation about the CSA proposed by Mr LI. They agreed to support the "one person, one vote" proposal for registered social workers on the condition that organizations which were already entitled to vote in the Social Welfare FC should not be deprived of such right .

16. DS for CA reiterated that the Administration's CSAs would enable the provisions to operate more effectively. Although the principle of Dr LEONG's proposed amendment was discussed at meetings of the Bills Committee some time ago, the actual wording of the CSA were only available for the Administration's comments at a very late stage. Having considered the views of Chinese medicine practitioners that separate EC subsector should be maintained for the Chinese medicine, the Administration had proposed some modifications to the CSA.

17. The Chairman asked the Administration whether it was possible for LegCo to proceed with Mr LI's CSA and if it was passed, the Administration should deal with any shortcomings by way of an amendment bill to be introduced into LegCo in October. As for Dr LEONG's withdrawn CSA, the Administration could bring it back in the same amendment bill if the CSA to establish a Chinese Medicine FC was negatived. DS for CA said that the subsidiary legislation on registration of electors would be introduced into LegCo for scrutiny in October after passage of this Bill and the voter registration exercise would start in early 2000. The Administration's CSA, if passed, would ensure that the eligible Chinese medicine practitioners could be registered as electors for the 2000 LegCo election. Introduction of an amendment bill as proposed might delay the various steps involved in the timetable of the 2000 LegCo election.

18. The Chairman put the Administration's proposal to take over Mr LI and Dr LEONG's CSAs to vote. He declared the result as follows-

  1. Five Members voted in support of the proposal : Mr NG Leung-sing, Prof NG Ching-fai, Mr MA Fung-kwok, Mr Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen and Mr TAM Yiu-chung;

  2. 15 Members voted against the proposal : Miss Cyd HO, Mr LEE Wing-tat, Mrs Selina CHOW, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong, Mr CHAN wing-chan, Mr CHAN Kam-lam, Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung, Mr CHENG Kai-nam, Mr SIN Chung-kai, Mr WONG Yung-kan, Mr Howard YOUNG, Dr YEUNG Sum, Mr LAU Kong-wah, Mrs Miriam LAU and Ms Emily LAU;

  3. 4 Members abstained : Dr LEONG Che-hung, Mr LAU Wong-fat, Miss CHOY So-yuk and Dr TANG Siu-tong.

19. The Chairman concluded that the Bills Committee was not in support of the Administration's proposal and requested ASG 3 to advise the President accordingly.

20. The meeting ended at 1:12 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
4 October 1999