Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2)206/99-00
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/BC/23/98

Bills Committee on
Provision of Municipal Services (Reorganization) Bill

Minutes of Meeting
held on Friday, 23 July 1999 at 8:30 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP (Chairman)
Hon Kenneth TING Woo-shou, JP
Hon HO Sai-chu, SBS, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming, JP
Hon Ambrose CHEUNG Wing-sum, JP
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP

Members Absent :

Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon FUNG Chi-kin

Public Officers Attending :

Mrs Maureen CHAN
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Mr Johnny WOO
Assistant Director of Urban Services (Leisure Management)

Mr Tony MA
Assistant Director of Regional Services (Culture & Entertainment)

Ms Rhonda LO
Assistant Director (Environmental Health Services) Acting

Senior Assistant Law Draftsman (Department of Justice)

Miss Selina LAU
Government Counsel (Department of Justice)

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Mr LEE Yu-sung
Senior Assistant Legal Adviser

Miss Connie FUNG
Assistant Legal Adviser 3

Miss Flora TAI
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 2

I. Scheduling of meetings

The Chairman informed members that the meeting in the afternoon had been cancelled as some members would not be able to attend, and that the next meeting would be held on Tuesday, 27 July 1999 at 10:45am. Members further agreed that the meeting on 30 July 1999 would be a double time-slot, to compensate for the cancellation of a meeting originally scheduled for 3 September 1999.

2. In view of the voluminous provisions of the Bill and the tight legislative timetable, the Chairman sought members' view as to whether the Bills Committee should hold three meetings every week in September 1999 after a short break in August. Mr LEE Wing-tat objected to the suggestion as the Administration would not be able to provide written response to members' questions in time if Bills Committee met too frequently. At the Chairman's request, members agreed that the Bills Committee would hold regular meetings on Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning in September 1999. To speed up the scrutiny process, the Chairman suggested and members agreed that the Bills Committee would not continue discussion on a particular issue if clearly no consensus could be reached on the issue.

II. Clause-by-clause examination of the Bill
[Sets A, B and C of the marked-up copy of relevant legislation, Appendix III to Paper No. CB(2)2387/98-99(01) and Annex B to Paper No. CB(2)2598/98-99(02)]

3. Members noted that the Administration had yet to provide a written response to members' concerns raised at the meeting on 20 July 1999. To facilitate future discussion by the Bills Committee, the Chairman advised the Administration to provide the following papers in advance -

  1. substitution of the Sixth Schedule in Schedule 3;

  2. the proposed establishment of the Licensing Appeals Board in Schedule 3;

  3. amendments to Municipal Services Appeals Boards Ordinance in Schedule 4; and

  4. changes to the Liquor Licensing Board in Schedule 5.

Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (DS(CA)) undertook to provide the papers after August.

4. The Chairman then invited members to continue examination of Schedule 3 of the Bill starting from paragraph 2.

Schedule 3 - Amendments to Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance and its subsidiary legislation

Paragraph 2

5. DS(CA) informed members that the Third Schedule of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132) set out the authorities to discharge various powers under relevant sections; most of these powers would be transferred to the new authorities after the abolition of the municipal councils. The Administration would provide a paper on changes of designated authorities in the Third Schedule for members' reference.

6. In reply to Mr LI Wah-ming, DS(CA) confirmed that the proposed Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene would be a non-statutory body, therefore it would not take over any statutory power of the municipal councils.

Paragraph 3

7. DS(CA) informed members that clause 3 sought to repeal section 15A in respect of fees or charges relating to scavenging or conservancy services because a consolidated new Part X1A on all fees and charges was provided under paragraph 63 of the Bill.

Paragraph 4

8. DS(CA) said that the amendment was required because the existing Appeals Boards of the municipal councils would be amalgamated to form the proposed Municipal Services Appeals Board.

Paragraphs 5 - 11

9. DS(CA) said that the Administration proposed to repeal the regulatory provisions relating to washhouses which were no longer in existence. Mr LI Wah-ming reminded the Administration that "washhouse" had not been deleted from section 2 (Interpretation) of Cap. 132. DS(CA) said that it was an inadvertent omission and the Administration would propose Committee stage amendment (CSA) to delete the definition of "washhouse" from Cap. 132.Adm

Paragraphs 12 - 13

10. DS(CA) informed members that the Administration proposed to repeal sections 40 and 40A because laundries and dry cleaning establishments had already been de-regulated since 1977. The Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (Cap. 59) and the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (Cap. 509) were considered adequate in addressing the health issues and occupational safety in these establishments. Responding to the Chairman, DS(CA) said that the Administration would move CSAs to delete "laundry" from the heading and section 2 (interpretation) of Cap. 132. Adm

Paragraph 14

11. DS(CA) said that the Administration proposed to repeal section 41 (Regulations relating to labourers' lines) because labourers' lines rarely existed nowadays. Moreover, the sanitary condition and prevention/abatement of nuisance in labourers' lines were already covered by other provisions in Cap. 132 and relevant Regulations. Mr LEE Wing-tat asked whether the temporary accommodation in unfinished buildings at construction sites were regarded as labourers' lines. DS(CA) replied that labourers' lines referred to temporary boarding-house type of accommodation. In her view, those unfinished buildings were subject to the issue of occupation permits and were not labourers' line. As regards those temporary boarding houses built for workers of the new Airport project, DS(CA) said that they were regulated by the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123).

12. The Chairman and Mr LI Wah-ming reminded the Administration that "labourers' lines" should be deleted from the relevant heading and the Interpretation in Cap. 132. DS(CA) agreed to move CSAs to this effect. Adm

Paragraph 15

13. DS(CA) said that section 42AA in respect of fees and charges relating to swimming pools would be repealed because all fees and charges relating to cultural and recreational services would be consolidated under the proposed section 124J in the new Part XIA.

Paragraph 16

14. Members noted that clause 16 sought to replace the Director of Urban Services and the Director of Regional Services with "the Authority" and the amendment was technical in nature.

Paragraph 17

15. Members noted that the Administration proposed to repeal section 49A because fees and charges relating to offensive trades would be consolidated with other fees and charges under the new section 124I in the new Part X1A.

Paragraphs 18 - 22

16. DS(CA) informed members that, under the present structure, the Director of Health was responsible for making regulations in respect of the composition of food and drug. The proposed amendments sought to delineate the authorities under the new structure in respect of food and drugs between the Secretary for the Environment and Food/Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene and the Secretary for Health and Welfare/Director of Health respectively. Mr LEE Wing-tat asked why the authority was not specified in section 55(1). Senior Assistant Law Draftsman (SALD) said that the present drafting would be tidier to avoid long and complicated sentence in the section. The Chairman remarked that the section in its present form might make it difficult to distinguish between food and drugs. DS(CA) agreed that Cap. 132 should normally not contain provisions relating to drugs. In this connection, she informed members that the Department of Health was reviewing the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Cap. 138) and that existing provisions relating to drugs in Cap. 132 might be moved to Cap. 138, where appropriate, at a later stage.

17. Some members expressed concern that as the review would take time, the unclear division of responsibilities in respect of food and drugs would persist after the reorganization of municipal services, particularly in the areas of Chinese medicine and health food. The Chairman and Mr LEE Wing-tat urged the Administration to speed up the review so that a regulatory system for the grey areas could be put in place as soon as possible. Mr LEE further asked whether the Administration would be able to devise a regulatory framework, prior to the enactment of the Bill, for health food and food products composing of Chinese herbs or medicine. He expressed concern that the absence of regulation of these products would lead to availability of harmful food products to the general public. In this connection, he would like to know the Administration's timetable for completion of the review and introduction of a regulatory framework. DS(CA) replied that the present Bill sought to transfer existing powers prescribed in Cap. 132 and relevant legislation to the new authorities for the provision of municipal services, after the abolition of the two municipal councils. She pointed out that Cap. 132 and its subsidiary legislation did not cover specifically regulation of health food or Chinese medicinal products. Given the recent enactment of the Chinese Medicine Ordinance, issues relating to the regulation of food products with Chinese herbs or medicine components would have to be sorted out by the new authorities after the reorganisation. The proposed Advisory Council of Food and Environmental Hygiene might also study the matter. Dr TANG Siu-tong added that the Administration should also consider whether Chinese herbal tea would be subject to the regulation of the proposed Department of Food and Environmental Hygiene. DS(CA) advised that the proposed Department of Food and Environmental Hygiene would normally be responsible for regulating food products with no definite drug element.

18. Members considered that the Administration should set out clearly the future responsibilities of the new bureaux and departments for the regulation of food and drug matters. At members' request, DS(CA) agreed to provide a paper to elaborate the division of responsibilities in respect of food and drug hygiene under Cap. 132 and the relevant legislation, and on the proposed arrangements for the regulation of Chinese medicine, Chinese herbal tea and health food. In this regard, Mr Howard YOUNG informed members that the Liberal Party was studying the feasibility of adopting the United States model by having an integrated agency for food and drug administration. If this was found feasible, the Liberal Party might propose amendments to the effect that a single authority (for example, a Food and Drug Authority) would be held responsible for the regulation of food and drugs.

Paragraphs 23 - 30

19. Members did not raise any queries.

Paragraphs 31 - 36

20. Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (PAS(CA)) explained the reasons for repealing sections 88 - 92 in Cap. 132 as set out in Annex C to the Legislative Council Brief. Responding to Mr LEE Wing-tat, PAS(CA) confirmed that relevant government departments had been consulted and they were satisfied that existing legislation such as the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance (Cap. 349) and the Bedspace Apartments Ordinance (Cap. 447) was adequate to cover the repealed provisions. Mr Ambrose CHEUNG said that he had reservation as to whether sections 90, 90A and 91 in Cap. 132 should be repealed since these were not only concerned with overcrowding. Mr CHEUNG pointed out that under these sections, the Authority was empowered to make regulations relating to boarding houses to provide for the proper management and sanitary maintenance and the reporting of cases of communicable disease in boarding houses. Since boarding houses might also provide catering services to their guests, he asked how sanitary maintenance would be monitored after these sections were repealed. Mr CHEUNG suggested the Administration to provide further information on how existing legislation could adequately cover the repealed provisions.

21. Mr LEE Wing-tat asked whether the ambit of sections 88 and 89 in Cap.132 was limited to boarding houses. Senior Assistant Legal Adviser (SALA) advised that sections 87 - 92 related to tenements, hotels and boarding houses. There would be similar provisions in other existing legislation, e.g. the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance and the Bedspace Apartments Ordinance. SALA pointed out that the Bill however did not seek to repeal section 87 which related to abatement of overcrowding.

22. Mr LEE Wing-tat asked whether section 87 of Cap. 132 covered all types of tenements. DS(CA) explained that the provisions under Part VII were drawn up at the time when the Urban Council was responsible for regulation of tenements. Such responsibility was subsequently transferred to other authorities upon establishment of the Housing Department and Housing Authority. As far as she was aware, these provisions under Cap. 132 had not been invoked for a long time. In this connection, Mr LEE Wing-tat opined that the Administration should have proposed to repeal these sections when the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Bill and the Bedspace Apartments Bill were introduced into the Legislative Council. On the reasons for not deleting section 87 in this exercise, PAS(CA) said that the Administration could not rule out the possibility that section 87 might have to be invoked when overcrowding in premises had caused nuisance to the tenants therein. The other sections proposed for deletion were concerned with removal of obstructions to light and ventilation and these could be covered by other existing legislation such as Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123). With regard to the authority for invoking section 87, SALA advised that if the Authority was satisfied that a nuisance existed, it could serve a notice under section 127(1) on the person who caused the nuisance and that person could be the landlord or the tenant. In view of members' concern about section 87, DS(CA) undertook to reconsider whether section 87 was still necessary when all other sections in Part VII concerning overcrowding were repealed. Adm

23. Mr LEE Wing-tat noted that there was no definition of "overcrowding" in Cap. 132. SALA advised that "overcrowding" was not defined in Cap. 132, so it would be for the Authority to decide whether the space in the premises concerned would constitute "overcrowding" and caused a nuisance. In this connection, Mr HO Sai-chu informed members that according to a LegCo research report entitled "Housing Standards of Private Dwellings", there was no standard on living space in local legislation while the United Kingdom had legally enforceable standards in this respect. To enable the Bills Committee to further consider the proposed repeal, the Chairman advised the Administration to provide information as to whether other bylaws made under Part VII of Cap. 132 had been repealed in the past, and whether other legislation had covered the control of overcrowding. Adm

Paragraph 37

24. The Chairman queried whether it was necessary to add "or a public officer authorized by the Authority for the purposes of this section" after "Authority". SALD explained that the proposed amendment would enable the Authority to authorize any public officer to issue licences for the activities. Mr LI Wah-ming then asked about the reason for not including the phrase in section 92AA as well. SALA advised that section 92AA was to empower the Authority to make regulations to exempt certain billiard establishments from the licensing requirement, and the power to make regulation could not be further delegated to other officers.

Paragraph 38

25. DS(CA) said that the Eleventh Schedule of Cap. 132 set out the licensed activities which included billiard establishment, public bowling-alley, public skating rink, public table tennis saloon and undertaker of burials. Under the proposed structure, Home Affairs Bureau would be responsible for the first three types of licensed activities while undertakers of burials would come under the responsibility of the Environment and Food Bureau. For clarity purpose, the Administration proposed to add a new Schedule 11A for undertaker of burials. Responding to the Chairman, SALD said that Arabic numeral "11" was used for the new Schedule simply because it was difficult to add "A" to the word "Eleventh".

26. Mr Ambrose CHEUNG commented that it was sometimes difficult to differentiate these licensed activities in a clear-cut manner. In this connection, he asked whether an undertaker of burials was required to apply for other licences to operate those recreational activities listed in the Schedule. DS(CA) responded that it would depend on the principal business of the operator, and an undertaker would have to apply for relevant licences to operate other activities in the burial home if these were subject to licensing requirements. The Chairman remarked that the Administration would have to consider ways to streamline the licensing arrangements to facilitate the trade.

27. The meeting ended at 10:35pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
26 October 1999