LegCo Round-Up 27

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Committee Meetings Summary Report – 27th May

Bills Committee on Trust Law (Amendment) Bill 2013

The Bills were to amend the Trustee Ordinance and the Perpetuities and Accumulations Ordinance to:

extend trustees’ powers in some areas
impose a statutory duty of care on trustees
provide for the validity of certain trusts
abolish the rule against perpetuities
change the rule against excessive accumulations of income
provide for related and consequential amendments

The amendments were to keep Hong Kong competitive especially vs. some of the Hong Kong competitors like Singapore and Malaysia that have reformed their trust laws in recent years. The Committee invited theJoint Committee on Trust Law Reform and the Administration to discuss on the matters. Mr. Kenneth Leung raised concerns that the amendments would further limit land supplies and push up the land prices. However, the representatives from the trust business in the Joint Committee on Trust Law Reform stated that properties occupied only a very small percentage in the trust funds and therefore, would not lead to the land crisis. The discussion would continue in next meeting on 4th, June.

Meeting of Panel on Economic Development

The Panel first set down two agenda items for the next meeting:

Incorporating in local legislation the latest standards of the International Maritime Organization on vessel emissions
Proposed amendments to legislation relating to the carriage of dangerous goods by air

Discussion then began with the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Collision of Vessels near Lamma Island on 1st October, 2012. The Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung stated that an internal investigation on the incident will be carried out by the Transport and Housing Bureau, led by the Permanent Secretary for Transport and Housing (Transport), Mr. Joseph Lai. And Professor Cheung, the Secretary himself will lead the Steering Committee on Systemic Reform of the Marine Department. The Director of Marine, Mr. Liu apologized personally for the first after the incident on the Panel.

Mr. Kwok Ka-kicriticised the government for doing nothing still to improve on the life jacket recognition system on the vessels. Dr. Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung beleives the Marine Department holds the majority of accountability in the incident for improper inspection and suggested that the Report has already listed out the personnel involved. Many other members questioned Mr. Liu regarding the reason he did not apologise at an earlier time. They beleived the internal investigation lacked transparency and independency. Dr. Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung proposed an independent and professional investigation to be conducted on the incident and Mr. Albert Chan Wai-yip amended the proposal to add compensation to involved parties. Both motions were approved.

The next item to discuss was the proposals to enhance dark smoke control on vessels. The proposals were to amend the Merchant Shipping (Local Vessels) Ordinance and the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance to set down some objectives and benchmarks for prosecution. The proposals were approved.

Meeting of Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting

The Panel set down two agenda items to discuss in next meeting on 10th, June:

Progress report on digital inclusion
Issues relating to the editorial independence of Radio Television Hong Kong( Public hearing on this matter may be held)

The Panel first reviewed the progress report of the work of the Hong Kong Design Centre. Members questioned whether there are benchmarks to compare with other cities and measure the outcome. The administration said it will consider establishing benchmarks but comparisons will be difficult to conduct.

The second item was a briefing on the First Feature Film Initiative as suggested in the 2013 Policy Address by the Chief Executive. Mr. Leung Kwok-hung considered the fund inadequate and the Chairman, Mr. Wong Yuk-man was confused regarding the criteria of the application for the fund.

The Panel the proceeded to discuss issues relating to the arrangement for collecting public views on the quality and variety of programmes provided by the two domestic free television programme service licensees. Officials from the Communication Authority said they will hold a public hearing to collect public opinions on the quality and categories concerning the free television programme services. Different interest groups and people from academia will be invited.

Meeting of Bills Committee on Inland Revenue and Stamp Duty Legislation (Alternative Bond Schemes) (Amendment) Bill 2012

The Bills were to amend the Inland Revenue Ordinance to provide a taxation framework for some common types of Islamic bonds and conventional bonds and also to amend the Stamp Duty Ordinance to give stamp duty relief to the above types of arrangements. The Committee will continue on clause-by-clause consideration in the next meeting on 4th, June.

Meeting of Panel on Environmental Affairs

The first item of business was to inject $5 Billion into the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) to generate investment income to support green businesses in Hong Kong. The investment will be assisted by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. The proposal was approved and sent to the Finance Committee.

The second item to discuss was the extension of three existing landfills in Hong Kong, namely the Northeast New Territories landfill, the Southeast New Territories landfill and the West New Territories landfill. The Southeast New Territories landfill in Tseung Kwan O has created smell and dust problems. In response to the problems, the Secretary for Environment, Mr. Wong Kam-sing replied that only construction waste would be placed in the landfill. Concerns were also raised that the government should focus more on waste reduction than landfill extension.

The motion to repeal the Southeast New Territories landfill was proposed by Mr. Gary Fan Kwok-wai and was approvedby the Panel with 9 voting in favour and 4 against. Mr. Wu Chi-wai further proposed another motion to repeal the extension of all of the 3 landfills at the current stage but this was not approved with 4 voting in favour, 4 in against and 4 abstaining. A public hearing on the landfill proposals will be held on 1st, June.

Meeting of Subcommittee on Integrated Education

The Subcommittee first discussed a motion brought by Dr. Helena Wong Pik-wan urging the Education Bureau to take the lead to form a cross-department and cross-industry platform to push for integrated education and take care of children and teenagers suffering learning disabilities. The motion was approved.

The Subcommittee then proceeded to a public hearing on issues related to the difficulties in implementing integrated education with respect to students with:

autistic spectrum disorders
emotional and behavioural difficulties
communication difficulties

Meeting of Panel on Security

The Panel began with the discussion on the new mechanism of Independent Commission Against Corruption for approval of duty visits outside Hong Kong and reimbursement of expenditure on official entertainment and souvenirs. Some members saw the new mechanism as flawed wherein lower ranked staff would be asked to evaluate higher ranked staff. They urged the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to disclose more information concerning the former Commissioner, Mr. Tong Hin-ming. The Commissioner, Mr. Simon Peh stated that the old mechanism was the same as the one followed by all the civil servants but admitted there were still some areas of improvement on the new mechanism.

The second item was to discuss the replacement of seven helicopters and the associated mission equipment of the Government Flying Service.

Meeting of Bills Committee on Betting Duty (Amendment) Bill 2013

The Bills were to amend the Betting Duty Ordinance to abolish the duty for bets accepted outside Hong Kong concerning authorized horse races and to charge a duty at a flat rate on the betting of authorized horse races held outside Hong Kong. A public hearing was held to collect opinions from different interest groups which lasted for 2 hours.