Fewer all-night meetings facing Legco as term ends

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 January, 2012, 12:00am

The end of the Legislative Council's four-year term is traditionally marked by marathon meetings as lawmakers struggle to pass legislation, but the head of Legco's agenda-setting committee says she expects this year to be different, with only two controversial bills due to be tabled.

'Based on my own observations, the situation this year will be better than in the past,' said Miriam Lau Kin-yee, chairwoman of Legco's house committee.

'It might be because I have repeatedly reminded the chief secretary to table new bills as soon as possible. And the administration has done so in the first half of this year's session,' she said.

Lau said one of the bills likely to cause controversy related to the amendment of the electoral system for filling midterm vacancies in Legco. The government tabled its proposal last week to ban lawmakers who resign their seats from standing in by-elections in the six months after their resignation. A bill is expected to be forwarded next month.

'Legco has discussed the proposal for how to fill vacancies before, so it will make things easier for us,' Lau said.

The government tabled a bill last June to abolish by-elections and fill any midterm vacancy in Legco by giving the seat to the losing candidate with the most votes at the previous election. A public outcry forced the government to change its plans and launch a public consultation. The decision to change the by-election rules came after five pan-democrat lawmakers resigned to force what they hoped would be a 'de facto referendum' on democracy in 2010.

People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip has warned that his party will table hundreds of amendments to the bill in an attempt to delay progress and force it to be dropped.

Any bill that has not been passed by the time Legco's four-year term expires in July will lapse. And, because the government's term of office also ends in July, there is no certainty the incoming chief executive's administration will table them again.

Lau called on the government to table the second controversial bill, which would regulate the sale of new homes, quickly as it would need considerable scrutiny.

'I have told the chief secretary not to table any other controversial bills in the coming few months on top of our busy schedule, but we still look forward to this one because such regulations are essential,' Lau said.

Lau does not expect a repeat of 2008, when lawmakers rushed through nine outstanding bills in seven working days during the final two weeks of sittings, or 2004, when 10 bills had to be dropped because they could not be passed in time.

'Most of the bills have been tabled. Now it's up to the lawmakers to keep the process moving,' she said.

'However, it seems inevitable that we will still need marathon meetings towards the end of term. We might have more rooms for meetings after moving to the new complex in Admiralty, but we do not have more lawmakers to attend those meetings.'