LegCo Round-Up November 14th

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November 10th Monday

Meeting of Panel on Welfare Services
1. Discussion on the pilot scheme on Community Care Service Voucher for the elderly.
The Government announced that, since its inauguration in September, as of last month, a total of eighteen hundred elderly people took part in the pilot scheme, more than 500 service voucher holders exited the scheme.

Some legislators believe fails to address the huge demand for elderly care services with only over a thousand spot for service vouchers. Some Members pointed out that 184 elderly people exited because of a lack of appropriate services, and questioned the limited selection of the plan.

2. Discussion on the extension of the Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disabilities to Green Minibuses.

The Government announced that 120 million people has benefited from the scheme so far, and that it will be extended to the GMB next year in March. As of the end of October, 126 operators have expressed interest to participate, representing 80% overall.

3. Discussion on the annual adjustment of social security payment rates under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme and the Social Security Allowance Scheme, and issues relating to rent allowance under the CSSA Scheme
A committee of the Legislative Council discussed the adjustments to Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). The Government said that, according to Social Security Assistance Index of Prices (SSAIP), CSSA and Old Age Assistance (OAA) may increase by 4.2 percent. After October’s SSAIP is launched, final adjustment figures will be submitted to the Finance Committee, and the new amount can be expected to be implemented in February next year.
Ray Chan Chi-chuen (GC- NTE, People Power) said since there are only the 6 Finance Committee meeting this year, with 17 items on the agenda, it will be difficult to pass within this year. He requested that the Government move up the motion.

Administration said that actual increases will still need to be adjusted after October’s SSAIP is announced. They will apply for funding to the Finance Committee as soon as possible.
He said CSSA payments are adjusted based on changes in SSAIP annually, and insisted that the mechanism is objective.

Meeting of Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting
1. Renewal of analogue sound broadcasting licences. CRHK and Metro granted under the Telecommunications Ordinance will expire after 25 August 2016. CRHK and Metro submitted applications for renewal of their analogue sound broadcasting licences in July and August 2014 respectively. Some pro-establishment members complaint CRHK for promoting the Occupy Movement.

2. Purchase for new administrative computer systems in 2015-16. The estimated budget will exceed that in 2014-15 by $20 million to $940 million.

3. Proposed amendment of Schedule 1 to the Electronic Transactions Ordinance. The administration briefed members on the proposal to amend Schedule 1 of the Electronic Transactions Ordinance to give e-cheque the same legal status as paper cheque.

Meeting of Panel on Education
1. Discussion on the latest development of the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme. After 15 years and almost 7 billion dollars spent every year, legislators seemed to agree the programme has many imperfections but have different opinions as to whether the programme should be improved by increasing the number of NETs or by moving resources to train local teachers instead. Several legislators had doubts whether one NET per school could fulfill the objective of creating an English language learning environment. Eddie Ng Hak-kim, Secretary of Education, said the current goal is to continue to “optimize” the current scheme.

2. Discussion on the latest development of the initiatives and measures to enhance the transparency and quality of the self-financing post-secondary education sector. Helena Wong Pik-Wan (Democratic Party, Kowloon West) questioned the government’s sincerity in setting up a single quality assurance body as suggested by a Report on Higher Education Review by University Grants Committee (UGC) and proposed setting up an special panel to review the process.

3. Discussion on proposal to seek the approval of the Finance Committee (FC) to provide from the Loan Fund a further loan of $250 million to Chu Hai College of Higher Education Limited to cover part of the development costs of a purpose-built campus and student hostels for the operation of full-time locally accredited degree programmes by Chu Hai College of Higher Education (Chu Hai College).

4. Discussion on the Education Bureau (EDB)’s guidelines on teacher professionalism and school activities, especially regarding social issues of interest to students, such as the Occupy Central movement in the past month. Chan Ka Lok (Civic Party, HK Island) suggested that the EDB’s guidelines are vague, and that schools should embrace these controversial social issues, inviting guests of different political opinions to speak and encourage discussion. Kevin Yeung, Under Secretary for Education, reiterated the Bureau’s stance on the Occupy Movement, stating it is an illegal activity and the Bureau does not want and won’t encourage student participation. Also stated that the Bureau will remain professional in the review of the Liberal Studies curriculum, and will not be affected by political pressure. Ip Kin-yuen (FC, Education) clarified that the kindergarten teacher who allegedly taught her students that the police were bad after the teargassing on 928 had actually provided a good education plan for the children and did not instill biased opinion. He urged legislators to investigate appropriately before spreading rumours.

November 11th Tuesday

Meeting of Subcommittee on the Two Orders Made under Sections 49 and 49(1A) of the Inland Revenue Ordinance and Gazetted on 17 October 2014

Discussion on Double Tax Agreements with South Korea and Vietnam, focusing on the updating of the Exchange of Information procedures to adhere to International Standards. Content of the discussions emphasised on the strict protection of privacy.

Special meeting of Public Works Subcommittee
Some Pro-Establishment legislators have applied to join the Public Works Subcommittee after the application period. The Subcommittee is holding a special session to handle the additional late applications, However, pro-establishment members, except Paul Tse (GC- Kowloon East), have refused to attend the meeting. (Wong Kwok-hing mentioned in advance in interview with HT, see http://archive.harbourtimes.com/openpublish/The-Pearl-Harbor-of-LegCo-11062014) Chan Kin-por (FC- Insurance) criticized the pan-dems for not following the established agreement. Lee Cheuk-yan(GC- NT West, Labour Party) replied that the pan-dems and pro-establishment members in fact did not come to an agreement this year, as the pro-establishment members insisted on taking most Chair and Deputy Chair positions.

Christopher Chung ( GC- Hong Kong Island, DAB) believes that reasons for the late applications are good enough. Alan Leong ( GC – Kowloon East), as the chairman, has the discretion, but he did not exercise. However, Leong says according to the rules of procedure, the President has no discretion, which means he has no grounds to approve late applications. But Chung insisted. Leong then asked Chung to look into the rules of procedure, and the meeting was briefly suspended. Before the end of the meeting, the members could not reach the conclusion whether they will accept those late applications. Another special meeting is needed.

Meeting of Bills Committee on Insurance Companies (Amendment) Bill 2014
Discussion on the amendment bill which proposes, among other things, the establishment of the independent Insurance Authority (“IIA”) and a statutory licensing regime for insurance intermediaries to replace the existing self-regulatory system, focusing on amendments to existing provisions of and add new provisions to the ICO to provide for the licensing regime, principles of conduct, requirements of licensed insurance intermediaries, as well as the IIA’s power to conduct inspection and investigation, and to impose disciplinary sanctions.

A point of contention was in the wording of the new section 89(a) which requires that a licensed insurance intermediary “must act…in the best interests of the policy holder”. Both Raymond Wong Yuk-man (GC-Kowloon West) and Sin Chung-kai (FC-IT) raised concerns whether this was the most effective wording.

Meeting of Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene
Members discussed the proposed project to reprovision the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department Refuse Collection Point within a Residential Development at Fuk Wa Street/Fuk Wing Street/Camp Street site, Shamshuipo, Kowloon. The administration estimated that the project will be finished in 2019. However, Chan Chi-chuen (GC- New Territories East, People Power) said as there will be filibusters in LegCo, the project will not be able to finish in time. He urged the government to present a more accurate financial plan, with consideration of the current situation in LegCo. The issue will be moved to Public Works Subcommittee.

The administration proposed the reprovisioning of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department’s Sai Yee Street Environmental Hygiene Offices-cum-Vehicle Depot to Yen Ming Road, West Kowloon reclamation area. The issue is moved to Public Works Subcommittee.

Ko Wing-man, Secretary for Food and Health gave updates on the sub-standard lard incident and food safety issues of cooking oil. Helena Wong (GC-Kowloon West, DP) questioned why the authority did not publish the list of merchants, after the second and third orders banning the import and supply of lard and lard products were gazetted . Ko explained that the incident at that time was still evolving. Publishing the list might have implicated innocent merchants.

Meeting of Subcommittee on Hawker Policy
This was the first meeting of the LegCo year, Ho Chun-yin (FC – Agriculture and Fisheries) and Alan Leong (GC- Kowloon East, Civic Party) resumed Chairman and Deputy Chairman positions respectively. The Subcommittee agreed to have a Brainstorming Session on Hawker Policy with Dr. Ko Wing-man, Secretary of Food and Health. Cyd Ho (GC – HK Island, Labour Party) suggested to have the meeting in public and not behind closed-doors as initially suggested.

Meeting of Bills Committee on Electronic Health Record Sharing System Bill
Members and the administration met with Allan Chiang, Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data again. Chiang mentioned about the issue relating to the ‘safety box’. The ‘safety box’ will let patients put their sensitive health record inside, e.g. mental illnesses. He said patients may want to hide some of their sensitive health records and the authority should seriously consider the feasibility, but not always use “other countries do not adopt it” as an excuse. Chiang urged the authority to add a timeline into the first phase proposal, and promise to implement it in second phase. Kwok Ka-ki (GC- New Territories West, Civic Party) said if there are too many resources, the health professionals will find confused. He urged the authority to classify the information. Further details in our story: http://archive.harbourtimes.com/openpublish/electronic-health-record-hong-kong-20141023 (Chinese Only)

November 12th Wednesday

Meeting of Establishment Subcommittee
Members discussed the issue about 18 Pro-Est LegCo members who want to join the Subcommittee. Kenneth Leung, the Chairman decide to hold a special session to handle the additional late applications.

The administration proposed creation of 7 permanent judicial posts of 3 Justice of Appeal of the Court of Appeal of the High Court, 1 Judge of the Court of First Instance of the High Court, 1 Judge of the District Court and 2 Magistrate ; 1 non-civil service position of Executive Director; and 2 permanent civil service posts of one Chief Systems Manager and one Chief Treasury Accountant to be offset by the deletion of a Senior Treasury Account to strengthen the directorate structure of the Judiciary Administration. Discussion underway. Albert Chan and Chan Chi-chuen will move 4 motions regarding to the issue in next meeting.

Council meeting

Selected Oral Questions:
1. Dennis Kwok (GC- New Territories West, Civic Party)
Q: The new Dongjiang water agreement will continue to adopt the “package deal lump sum” approach in the calculation of water price. The annual increase in water price under the new agreement will be around 6%, and the lump sum to be paid over the three-year period will amount to $13.49 billion. It was asked if there were options such as expanding the reservoirs and interconnecting them to reduce costs?

Ma Siu-cheung, Under Secretary for Development (Notes: Paul Chan was out of town.)
A: At present, the local catchment measures 300 square kilometers, accounting for about 30% of the total area of Hong Kong. There is a serious shortage of developable land in Hong Kong. Besides, developments within the catchment are subject to stringent restrictions. In consideration of land resources and the impact on the environment and nearby facilities, it is not viable to identify suitable land in Hong Kong for expanding the catchment or constructing large new reservoirs.

2. Kwok Ka-ki ( New Territories West, Civic Party )
Q: What the authorities expect the submission of the “Public Sentiments Report” will accomplish, including whether it will facilitate a peaceful conclusion of the occupation movement? Whether CE will re-submit the July 15 Report after making amendments or a supplement to it?

Lau Kong-wah ,Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs
A: The Government will only submit one “Public Sentiments Report”, which will not constitute a part of the “Five-step” constitutional process. For the next step, the Government will conduct a second round of public consultation.

Competition (Amendment) Bill 2014
To grant the Competition Tribunal more power.These powers include the power to enforce the orders of the Tribunal, the power to award interest on debts and damages and judgment debts.
Third reading approved.

Members motions:
Dennis Kwok proposed resolution to extend the period for amending the Overseas Lawyers (Qualification for Admission) (Amendment) Rules 2014 (Commencement) Notice.

Cyd Ho (GC- Hong Kong Island, Labour Party) proposed resolution to extend the period for amending the Fourth Technical Memorandum for Allocation of Emission Allowances in Respect of Specified Licences.

Wong Yuk-man (GC- Kowloon West) moved a motion to devise the constitution by all people, making a new covenant, and realizing genuine ‘Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong’. In the motion, Wong requests the CE and all accountability officials resign en masse with civil servants maintaining the daily operation of the SAR Government, to be followed by immediately establishing a constitutional amendments convention on Hong Kong Affairs to amend the Basic Law.

Lee Cheuk-yan said he agreed to make amendments on constitution and criticized the Chinese Government for not letting Hong Kong people rule Hong Kong. However he did not agree that the government be managed by the civil servants, but Political parties if the CE and all accountability officials to resign en masse.

Wong Kwok-hing (GC- Hong Kong Island, FTU) referred the motion to “violation of the Basic Law”. He said those supported the motion were advocating Hong Kong independence movement. All pro-establishment members disagreed with the motion.

Only 5 pan-dems voted yes. 17 other pan-democratic members abstained. The motion was voted down by both constituencies. Wong Yuk-man was unhappy about the decisions made by the 17 pan-dems.