Lawmaker anxious to reduce opposition filibusters

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 2:40pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 2:52pm

A pro-government lawmaker wants to cut down on opposition filibusters by limiting the number of amendments each legislator can propose during committee debates.

Ip Kwok-him said on Tuesday that each lawmaker should be limited to proposing only one amendment for any government spending proposal under discussion in the Finance Committee.

His goal is to ensure “smooth proceedings” in the Legislative Council, said Ip, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city’s largest pro-government party.

He dismissed concerns that his suggestion would weaken the power of legislators to scrutinise proposals. “This is what we should do to make sure our meetings go smoothly,” he said.

“Each legislator can still raise one amendment. There are 69 legislators [excluding the Legco president], and therefore 69 amendments [are possible] for every proposal.”

Ip said he would propose the change during a Finance Committee meeting on Friday.

In May, lawmakers from People Power and the League of Social Democrats launched a 33-hour filibuster to oppose government-proposed restrictions on by-elections.

The pro-government camp criticised the marathon debate as hobbling the legislature’s operations.

Pan-democrat and Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said Ip’s suggestion would stifle the speech of opposition legislators and reduce Legco to a “rubber-stamp” body.

“Amendment motions are the last tool left in Legco for us to speak for the public,” Lee said. “What will be left of Legco if this is removed?”

“It is very sad that a legislator is trying to limit other legislators’ power to express opinions,” he said.

Another pan-democrat, Albert Chan Wai-yip - one of those who launched the delaying tactics in May - said he was planning to draw up hundreds of amendments to block Ip’s proposal from coming to a vote.