Legislative Council

Panel on Health Services,
Panel on Environmental Affairs, and
Panel on Constitutional Affairs
(meeting of 8 February 1999)

The Administration's Initial Thinking on
the Provision of Municipal Services Bill

The legislative work to implement the changes as a result of the review of district organisations involves the transfer of the functions, contractual rights, duties and liabilities, etc. of the Provisional Municipal Councils (PMCs) to the Administration or other statutory bodies and any necessary changes to the relevant statutory bodies such as the existing Municipal Services Appeal Boards. We are working on the draft legislation and intend to introduce the bill into the Legislative Council (LegCo) as soon as possible. This paper sets out the Administration's initial thinking on the draft legislation.

Previous LegCo Discussions

2. In preparing the draft legislation, we have taken into account the following views expressed by Members in previous meetings of the LegCo Panel on Constitutional Affairs on the legislative proposals arising from the review of district organisations:

  1. the Administration should introduce an omnibus bill on the subject to allow Members to have an overall view on the proposed changes; and

  2. the Administration should take the opportunity to review and update obsolete provisions in the ordinances and by-laws concerned.

An Omnibus Bill

3. On the legislative approach, we have considered two options:

  1. a bill to transfer the functions and powers of both the Provisional Urban Council (PUC) and Provisional Regional Council (ProRC) to the Administration or other statutory bodies. The repeal or amendments to all existing ordinances involving the PUC and ProRC would be dealt with under this Bill as consequential amendments;

  2. a series of individual amendment bills each dealing with specific powers and functions of the PUC and ProRC.

4. On balance, we prefer option (A) because it is a tidier package and enables LegCo to focus and deal with the matters at one go.

5. The bill is tentatively known as the "Provision of Municipal Services Bill". It will provide for the legal basis, re-vesting the Government or its designated public officers to assume the functions, powers, authority, ownership and management responsibilities from the PUC and the ProRC.

Future Structure for Delivery of Municipal Services
Food and Environmental Hygiene Services

6. On food and environmental hygiene services, we propose that a new policy Bureau should be set up. It will mainly provide central co-ordination and direction on environmental protection, environmental hygiene, waste management, food safety and nature conservation policies and facilitate the development of the agricultural and fisheries industries. It will be underpinned by a new Department of Food and Environmental Hygiene, as well as the existing Environmental Protection Department, and the Agriculture and Fisheries Department.

7. The responsibilities for food and environmental hygiene currently under the purview of the Urban and Regional Services Departments, the Department of Health, and the Agriculture and Fisheries Department will be assumed by the new Department of Food and Environmental Hygiene.

Culture and Leisure Services

8. On arts and culture, sports and recreation, the Secretary for Home Affairs has separately appointed a Consultant to study the new administrative framework for the delivery of services. On receipt of the consultancy report, the Administration will soon make a decision on the new structure. The necessary legislative amendments to reflect the decision will be incorporated, as far as possible, into the legislation being drafted.

Principal Objectives of the Bill

9. The principal objectives to be achieved by the legislation are:

  1. to transfer generally the functions and powers of both the PUC and ProRC under the Provisional Urban Council Ordinance, Cap 101, and the Provisional Regional Council Ordinance, Cap 385 respectively and other legislation to the Government or designated public officers on 1 January 2000. Third party interests will be secured.;

  2. to create a new Licensing Appeals Committee to hear appeals against the designated public officers' decisions on general licensing and related matters;

  3. to form a new Liquor Licensing Board to consider application and grant of liquor licences, in place of the two existing Liquor Licensing Boards (one in the Urban Council Area and one in the Regional Council Area);

  4. to merge the functions of the existing Urban Services Appeals Board and Regional Services Appeals Board to form a Municipal Services Appeals Board which will serve as the final appeal body for all appeals against licensing decisions by the designated public officers, the Licensing Appeals Committee, and the Liquor Licensing Board;

  5. to enable the designated officers to receive and to prescribe fees or charges for the provision of municipal services, under the authorisation of various ordinances and subsidiary legislation, where appropriate. On 1 January 2000, the fees and charges received should form part of the general revenue and be subject to the control and management under the Public Finance Ordinance, Cap 2;

  6. to vest existing rights, duties and obligations of both PUC and Pro RC in the Government;

  7. to abolish the demarcation between the "Urban Council Area" and "Regional Council Area";

  8. to delete certain obsolete provisions in the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance, Cap.132 and its subsidiary legislation;

  9. to make transitional provisions and savings to maintain legal and administrative continuity;

  10. to repeal the Provisional Urban Council Ordinance, Cap 101, and the Provisional Regional Council Ordinance, Cap 385, and to consolidate and rationalise the subsidiary legislation under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance, Cap 132; and

  11. to provide for consequential amendments in related primary and subsidiary legislation.
Differences in Policies and Practices between the Two Councils

10. There are a number of differences in the legislative provisions, policies and practices between the two PMCs. For example, some of the By-laws on the same subject have slightly different provisions. In some cases, the details of enforcement policies such as the prosecution policy for unlicensed premises and demerit points system and operational arrangements such as opening hours of facilities and venues are also different. We will need to consider how these differences can be reconciled by 1 January 2000 or to adopt transitional measures where more time is needed to implement a common policy.

Legislative Work and Timetable

11. It is estimated that altogether 57 Ordinances and no less than 100 subsidiary legislation will be affected in this legislative operation. Minor and consequential amendments will have to be made to 55 Ordinances and no less than 72 subsidiary legislation. Two Ordinances and 29 subsidiary legislation (all under Cap.132) will have to be repealed. The list of Ordinances and subsidiary legislation likely to be affected is at Annex.

12. Although the legislative work may appear to be onerous, the vast majority of the amendments are straight-forward and consequent upon the transfer of powers from the PMCs to the Government or designated officers. Thus, while the volume of work is rather substantial, their relevant contents are not too complex in the majority cases. We have started drafting the bill which is expected to be ready for introduction into the LegCo in a few months' time.

2 February 1999


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