Backlog of bills puts pressure on legislators

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 January, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 January, 2004, 12:00am

Some proposals face being postponed until the next Legco session in October

Pressure is growing on lawmakers to finish studying the heavy backlog of bills after the Lunar New Year break.

At least 26 outstanding proposals are awaiting approval before the session ends in July.

Of these, seven have yet to be given slots for scrutiny. A further six bills scheduled for this year have not been submitted.

Lawmakers say the Land Titles Bill, which seeks to simplify conveyancing procedures, will have to be deferred to the following term if there is not enough time to finish scrutinising it before July.

Lawmakers have approved only eight pieces of legislation since they returned from the summer break in October.

With 16 weekly sittings still to go in the session, they will have to squeeze through at least two bills each week to clear the backlog.

Bills that cannot be finished by July will automatically lapse and the scrutiny process will start afresh when the Legislative Council reconvenes in October after the September elections.

Legco House Committee chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee said members were concerned about the situation. Legco allows a maximum of 15 bills to be studied at a time. Seven bills submitted earlier are still in the queue for members' scrutiny.

Ms Lau said the government and lawmakers were both responsible for the slow pace.

'Sometimes it's a problem of drafting or a problem of insufficient consultation before introducing the bill. My colleagues have also been more attentive to details and probe very deeply,' she said.

But Ms Lau, also vice-chairwoman of the Liberal Party, denied the process had been bogged down by political wrangling. She said Legco generally faced a backlog towards the end of the session, but added members had to tackle more complex bills this time. She said complex bills such as the Land Titles Bill, tabled in December 2002, might have to be dropped.

But Ms Lau said it was too early to say if the administration should consider dropping some of the bills that had still to be studied.

Government figures show 127 bills have been submitted since the present four-year term began in October 2000, with 99 bills, or 80 per cent, having been enacted.

The legislative programme would be adjusted according to circumstances and priorities, Ms Lau added. Of the bills still to be introduced, the Hong Kong International Airport Bill enables the partial privatisation of the Airport Authority, as part of the securitisation plan for government assets worth $112 billion over the next five years.

The Employment (Amendment) Bill seeks to provide for reinstatement of workers unreasonably or unlawfully dismissed.