As predicted in my last LegCo Report, the Government was placed
under tremendous pressure on numerous difficult issues. Nonetheless,
the Chief Executive had come through rather well and recent poll
ratings of his Government is back on the rise.
The Budget was well accepted by the populace despite lingering
concerns of a possible long term structural fiscal imbalance. The
dramatic civil service reform took everyone by surprise and turned
old critics into supporters. The reappointment of the Chief Secretary,
political reforms; education reforms; financial market reforms;
information technology projects; costs control measures over social
welfare expenditure and public housing are keeping the media busy.
Senior civil servants are beginning to file in a long line to speak
on air waves and to the printed media. Instead of reacting to issues,
the Government has now taken initiatives to gradually set the society's
The Government was not spared by unexpected surprises though. It
was dealt a number of nasty blows by the Court of Final Appeal's
decision on immigrant children from the mainland and the inappropriate
remarks made by the Secretary of Justice regarding public interest
considerations in the 'Sing Tao' case. The Government's credibility
did suffer, but it was a 'down', not an 'out'. With the top team
of the Tung's administration moving into place, senior civil servants
are finally getting back their acts together.
II. Committees and Panels
||Public Accounts Committee (PAC):
||The PAC met a total of 37 times before I tabled the PAC Report
No. 30 & 31 at LegCo on 10 February 1999. The Report recommends,
amongst other measures, wider disclosure of Government Accounts.
It received extensive support and press coverage.
In order to urge the Administration to take note of the Committee's
concern and to generate discussion among Members of LegCo
on the issued raised, I had moved a motion on "Civil
Service's Culture and Efficiency" at the LegCo meeting
on 10 March 1999 at the request of members of the PAC.
Preparatory work is already under way for PAC Report No.
32 and I am also considering whether or not to ask the Director
of Audit to present a study report on 'Resource Accounting'
for the civil service in his Report No. 33.
||Financial Affairs Panel:
||The Panel held 4 meetings since the last report and the relevant
agenda are attached. A Joint meeting with Planning, Lands and
Works Panel was held to discuss the estimates of consultancy
fees and financial monitoring of Public Works Projects.
I have assisted HKSA to prepare a written submission regarding
the consultation paper on Corporate Rescue and the Protection
of Wages on Insolvency Fund (Treatment of Employees on "Provisional
Supervision"). It seems that more discussion with the
Government is needed before they would take a positive position
on the issue.
A proposed list of future agenda items dated 24 February
1999 is attached for reference.
||Welfare Services Panel:
||The Panel held 4 meetings since the last report. The Panel
studied the Social Networking for the Elderly Project and measures
taken under the social networking mechanism during old spells
to assist the vulnerable, single elderly, services for demented
elderly. It also discussed the funding-problems of welfare agencies
faced with the prospect of reduced subsidy from the Community
Chest, the implementation of the Enhanced Productivity Programme
in the Social Welfare Department and welfare agencies as well
as the review of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme
||Economic Services Panel:
||The Panel held 3 meetings since the last report. The Panel
studied the promotion of Hong Kong as an International Shipping
Centre, the Third Party Insurance for Civil Aircraft, Safety
of Gas Water Heaters, Satellite Based CNS/ATM System, review
of speed limits for vessels in Hong Kong Water, sustainable
development of the pig raising industry as well as the transitional
arrangements for the opening of the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse
||Information Technology and Broadcasting Panel:
||The Panel held 3 meetings since the last report. The Panel
mainly focused on the Administration's decision on the proposed
acquisition of the Internet-related business of Hong Kong Star
Internet Limited by Hong Kong Telecom IMS Limited, the common
in- terface for the use of Chinese in electronic communication,
1998 Review of Fixed Telecommunications as well as the progress
of Year 2000 compliance exercise in Government, Government-funded
and Government-regulated organizations.
||Finance Committee and House Committee:
||There were 11 meetings of Finance Committee (including 6 special
meetings with 17 sessions from 16 to 19 March 1999 to examine
the draft Estimates of Expenditure 1999-2000) and 12 meetings
of House Committee. (There were two special House Committee
meetings to brief LegCo members on the Secretary for Justice's
recent trip to Beijing as well as the Judgement of the Court
of Final Appeal delivered on 26 February 1999.)
TD of HKSA was kept informed of progress on all bills on a weekly
basis. The latest 1998/99 legislative programme dated 5 March 1999
III. Bill Committees Joined
||Evidence (Amendment) Bill 1998:
||This Bill deals with court procedures in handling
hearsay evidence and was pass without controversy on 13 January
||Securities (Insider Dealing) (Amendment) Bill
||This Bill seeks to amend the definition of "judge"
in section 2(1) of the Securities (Insider Dealing) Ordinance
(Cap. 395) (SIDO) to include a deputy of the Court of First
Instance in the definition (Clause 2). It was passed without
controversy on 6 January 1999.
||Business Registration (Amendment) Bill 1998
||The objective of this Bill is to amend the Business
Registration Ordinance (Cap. 310) to: (a) introduce changes
to the business registration system; and (b) streamline the
operation of the system. The Bill was pass without controversy
on 13 January 1999.
||Adaptation of Law Bill (No. 10) Bill
||This controversial Bill which seeks to allow
the US Authority to probe into the tax affairs of US taxpayers
in Hong Kong is temporarily stalled after the HKSA made its
submission. We still have to lobby hard to stop this Bill on
its track. Further meeting is expected to be held to continue
||Bills Committee on District Councils Bill
||The Bills seeks to provide for: (a) the declaration
of Districts, the establishment of a body known as a District
Council (DC) for each District, the composition of membership
in a DC, the qualification for membership and disqualification
from being a member; and (b) in the case of elected members,
the procedure for electing members to DCs.
A total of 13 meetings (equivalent to 17 two-hours sessions)
have been held to discuss with the Administration the principles,
policy aspects and detailed provisions of the Bills. The Bills
Committee has also received 139 written submissions from the
public and met 21 deputations which have given representation
at a meeting of the Bills Committee. The Bill was finally
passed in a stormy marathon session in the morning hours of
11 March 1999.
||Companies (Amendment) Bill 1999
||I attended the first meeting of the Bill yesterday
(29 March 1999) and strongly pledged my support behind this
Bill on merger relief and deregistration of solvent, defunct
private companies. My interests might have helped to put other
LegCo members at ease and few questions were filed in the first
||Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital Incorporation
(Amendment) Bill 1999 - A Private Member's Bill:
||I have been invited to introduce this Private
Member's Bill on behalf of the Hospital Board. The object of
this Bill is to clarify and further define the power of investment
of the corporation established under the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole
Hospital Incorporation Ordinance (Cap. 1072).
V. Motion Debate
List attached. Speeches on my Web Page and highlights will be published
in my circulars to members.
I have asked another 8 (7 written and 1 oral) questions, since
the last report which are attached. The relevant HKSA Committees
may wish to be advised and to consider the replies further.
VII General Political Background
The Chief Executive will begin to promote his policies with growing
confidence and a more co-operative civil services machinery. The
next step to watch shall be the revamp of the Executive Council
which may bring him closer to the political factions of the Legislative
Meanwhile, the economy is widely expected to cease sliding downwards
and business confidence gradually restored. All eyes will be watching
the moves to merge the stock and future exchanges; the Disneyland
project and the Cyberport.
Closer to the accountancy profession, a number of newspapers are
developing an editorial line to suggest strengthening regulation
on auditors of listed companies. The HKSA must quickly rise to the
challenge and to deal with this very serious issue rather than leaving
the matter to individuals who are handling the public response in
an un-coordinated and half-hazard fashion.