Democrats to exploit 'grey area' over housing means test

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 October, 1998, 12:00am

The Democratic Party is exploiting a grey area in the Basic Law in an attempt to scrap the proposed means test for public housing applicants.

Legal advice given to the party showed a private member's bill might be allowed as it could be argued that the Housing Authority, a publicly funded statutory body, might not constitute a government structure.

The Basic Law requires the Chief Executive's approval for all private members' bills affecting government bodies.

Party vice-chairman Dr Yeung Sum was confident the hurdle could be overcome.

'It is arguable whether the Housing Authority is a 100 per cent government structure.' There was a grey area with room to manoeuvre, he said.

The proposal was recently endorsed by the party and given priority among five bills to be pushed through.

The second bill seeks to set up an appeal mechanism for shop tenants aggrieved by Housing Department rent reassessments.

The other three are a bill to outlaw abusive debt-collecting practices, one to strengthen the monitoring of drug labelling and one to scrap the bank interest-rate agreement.

The party has attacked the Legislative Council's divisional voting system for undermining the chances of getting the bills through.

Legislative Council president Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai agreed the Housing Authority was not a 100 per cent government structure. 'It is an independent body and not completely a government structure,' she said.

But she declined to say whether such a private member's bill could be tabled.

According to Legco's rules of procedure, Mrs Fan has the power to decide if a private member's bill involving public money or government policies can be put forward.