LC Paper No. CB(3) 881/98-99 (02)
Ref: CB(3)/C/1 (II)
Paper for the Committee on Members' Interests meeting
on 15 December 1998
Procedure for handling complaints against a Member
about his failure to register or disclose registrable interests
This paper provides information on the procedures adopted by the previous Committee on Members' Interests of the Legislative Council in May 1992 and the practices in overseas legislatures on the handling of complaints against a Member about his or her failure to register or disclose registrable interests and seeks members' views as to whether a procedure should be set down for handling such complaints.
2. The functions of the Committee on Members' Interests ("CMI") as provided for in Rule 73 include: to consider and investigate any complaint made in relation to the registration and declaration of members' interests or any complaint of a failure to do so, and report to the Council and make recommendations, including a recommendation as to a sanction under Rule 85 (Sanctions relating to Interests). The sanction under Rule 85 may be admonition, reprimand or suspension by the Council on a motion to that effect. The CMI considered that, in carrying out these duties, there was a need for it to set up the procedure for handling complaints about a Member's failure to register or disclose registrable interests.
3. At the second meeting of the CMI held on 24 September 1998, members asked the Secretariat to collect information regarding the practices in other legislatures for handling complaints against any Member who has not properly registered or disclosed his or her interests. In particular, the CMI would like to know the triggering mechanism for action and the steps to follow.
Procedures adopted by the Committee on Members' Interests of the former Legislative Council
4. In May 1992, the then Committee on Members' Interests established its working procedures, among which was the procedure for handling complaints relating to the registration or the disclosure of interests. The procedure is attached at Appendix 1 for members' information. It was never invoked by the then Committee on Members' Interests as there was no need to do so.
Practices in overseas legislatures
5. Appendix 2 is an information paper on practices in the legislatures of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States on Members' conduct and punitive measures.
Common features of the complaint procedures
6. Members will note that it is open to any Member or to a member of the public to complain to the legislature that a Member has not properly registered or declared his or her interests. However, such a complaint must be made in writing, with sufficient details in support of the complaint and should not be anonymous. An investigation will then follow.
7. So far, the Legislative Council has not invoked any proceedings in respect of its Members relating to the registration and disclosure of pecuniary interests. This is consistent with the principle upheld by many legislatures, which is that penal jurisdiction should be exercised as sparingly as possible and only when satisfied that to do so is essential in order to provide reasonable protection for the legislature, its Members or its officers from improper obstruction in the performance of their functions.
The complaint procedure of the CMI
8. If members agree, Parts II to IV of the procedures adopted by the previous Committee on Members' Interests of the Legislative Council at Appendix 1 could be adopted by the CMI, after adaptations, as its procedure for handling complaints against a Member about his or her failure to register or disclose registrable interests.
9. Members' advice is sought as to whether the Committee on Members' Interests should set down its procedure for handling complaints against a Member about his or her failure to register or disclose registrable interests.
Legislative Council Secretariat
9 December 1998