Old age allowance

Plan to thwart old age allowance vote for second time at Legco

Government has support to secure funding for allowance, but lawmakers opposing means test plan second round of delay tactics at Legco

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 November, 2012, 3:31am

The government should have enough votes to pass funding approval for the old age living allowance, but the proposal is still unlikely to be put to a vote at today's Finance Committee meeting.

After last Friday's setback at the Legislative Council's Finance Committee meeting, scrutiny of the application for HK$3.1 billion to fund the HK$2,200 a month allowance plan resumes today.

Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, chairman of the committee, said he was not optimistic the proposal could be put to a vote, with more than 1,000 amendments raised by League of Social Democrats lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung.

Leung, who prepared the amendments, vowed to carry out the filibuster, even without support from his pan-democrat allies. The Democratic Party and Labour Party hinted they will not try to delay the meeting.

At least 32 lawmakers will back the allowance proposal, with 28 opposed.

The Beijing-loyalist Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions maintains that people aged 70 and above should be exempt from the means test.

Currently, those aged 65 and above would be eligible for the allowance, an improvement on the current HK$1,090-a-month "fruit money". But they would have to prove their monthly income was not more than HK$6,660 and their assets did not exceed HK$186,000.

After talks with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen said the union still had "not decided whether to support the government proposal on the new subsidy plan".

Two more independent lawmakers will vote in favour of the old age living allowance.

Martin Liao Cheung-kong, a barrister and lawmaker representing the commercial sector, will support the new subsidy.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun, of the Kowloon East constituency, said: "I'm inclined to support the scheme, as more elderly can benefit from it. But I still hope the means test … [can] be scrapped."

Before the Executive Council meeting last Tuesday, Leung reiterated the government's stance, refusing to scrap the means test or raise the asset cap.

On Tuesday, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, the secretary for welfare and labour, urged lawmakers to vote for the new allowance, of HK$2,200 a month, when it is tabled in the Legislative Council.

He said the government would simplify the application procedure for the new allowance, but would not scrap the controversial means test linked to it.