Allies work for single labour bill
By LOUIS WON and CATHERINE NG
THE Democratic Party and its close ally, the Confederation of Trade Unions, are trying to settle their differences on how to alter the controversial labour importation scheme.
They are trying to agree on a private member's bill to amend the scheme, so they could table it in the new Legislative Council as soon as it convenes next month.
Putting forward two separate bills would complicate the issue and reduce the chances of getting either one passed.
Legislator and confederation chief executive Lee Cheuk-yan said his members insisted the Immigration Ordinance be amended to stop new visas being issued to foreign workers covered by the general importation of labour scheme.
Filipino maids, foreign professionals and workers who were brought in for the new airport projects would not be affected.
The Democratic Party's proposal appeared to be more moderate. It suggested that Legco, rather than the administration, have the power to monitor the scheme.
The party did not want to lay down details, such as the number of quotas and their allocations, in the private member's bill, preferring to leave that for future, subsidiary legislation.
Mr Lee said last night that he would wait for a response from the Democrats, who are to meet tonight on the issue.
He did not rule out going it alone if the Democrats stood firm. Legal drafting work was almost complete, he said.
But he was optimistic that the confederation could co-operate with the Democrats on the issue.
Democratic Party legislator Michael Ho Mun-ka said the two sides would try their best to narrow the differences and merge the two bills.
Mr Ho said yesterday: 'We don't have differences in principle'.
He said he aimed to finish preparations for tabling the bill before Governor Chris Patten delivered his policy address on October 11.
'We don't actually want to table this bill, because we hope the Governor will put forward his own proposals which will bring a halt to the labour importation scheme,' he said.