Lai See

Hong Kong's derisory enforcement of engine idling law

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 4:16am

We can report that those whose job it is to chase down breaches of the engine idling law have shown a marked increase in their activity. Readers will recall the law came into effect on December 15, 2011. Between then and the end of May 2012, a total of zero fixed-penalty tickets were issued.

This is not because engine idling suddenly came to a grinding halt, something that even the most casual observer could easily discern. However, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) used to say then that it was in educative mode and drivers had proved co-operative when asked to comply with the law.

Nevertheless, since then, there has been a marked tightening-up, and between May 2012 and the end of last month, no fewer than 47 fixed-penalty tickets were issued to those that broke this law. That works out at an average of 3.4 fixed-penalty tickets a month.

So we can safely say that traffic wardens and the EPD haven't exactly been cracking the whip on this one. You could quite easily issue 47 tickets in a morning just by wandering around Central and visiting Bank Street, Ice House Street and Wellington Street to start with.

This has surely been one of the most useless laws ever enacted in Hong Kong and has been a complete waste of the Legislative Council's time. A fitting testimony to the reign of the former secretary for the environment, Edward Yau Tang-wah.


A softer Citi?

Our attention has been drawn to a touching message to the staff at Citi from country officer Weber Lo. They are so pleased at the bank with the progress so far in achieving "The Plan" for the year that the "Appreciation Day" has been extended to a week.

This is the one day in the year dedicated to "celebrating the hard work Citi colleagues have put in, in contributing to the success of the franchise". The e-mail says: "The Appreciation Task Force, Diversity Committee and CitiClub have worked together to bring you a host of events and activities."

So what tantalising delights can Citi staff look forward to? A week of carousing with dinners, champagne, risque entertainment and all the other stuff investment banks are associated with from time to time?

The management appears to have something more subdued in mind. There's a free eye examination, free massage, a diversity leadership talk by Anson Chan Fang On-sang and a family day outing to Disneyland. The one opportunity we see for exuberance would appear to be an item headed "Department celebrations". Should be an uplifting week.


Rolls-Royce and the spooks

There's been a change at the top of Holdingham, the owner of Hakluyt & Co, a business intelligence organisation that, much to its irritation, is frequently referred to as corporate spooks. People say this because it was started by two former officers of MI6, otherwise known as the British Secret Intelligence Service.

It attracted attention last year when it emerged that businessman Neil Heywood, who was murdered by Bo Xilai's wife, occasionally worked for the company. Niall FitzGerald, the former boss of Unilever, has stepped down as chairman after five years, to be replaced by Sir John Rose, the chief executive of Rolls-Royce until 2011 and now deputy chairman of Rothschild, the Sunday Times reports.

This means that Hakluyt increasingly resembles a Rolls-Royce old boys' club since, in addition to Rose, the board also comprises Robert Webb, a former general counsel with the company, and Sir Ralph Robins, who was chairman until 2003.

The Rolls-Royce connection also extends to Richard Margolis, an old Hong Kong hand who is on the board of Hakluyt & Co Singapore, the group's Asian arm.

Those with long memories will recall that Margolis was part of the British government's Foreign and Commonwealth Office team that negotiated the agreement on Hong Kong's future. He left the team in 1986 and remained in Hong Kong as managing director of corporate finance at Smith New Court Far East.

He stayed on when the company was taken over by Merrill Lynch until 2001, and then joined Rolls-Royce as regional director for northeast Asia before, coincidentally, also ending up at Hakluyt.