Lawmakers inch ahead on budget amid bargaining

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 May, 2013, 5:45am

Proceedings in the Legislative Council were a little faster yesterday, with filibustering lawmakers getting through seven debate sessions - almost double the number they managed over the six previous days - as deliberations over the budget bill dragged on.

The progress came two days before three of the four lawmakers leading the filibustering were due to meet Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

The radicals have suggested they may drop their delaying tactics if Tsang promises to set up a HK$50 billion seed fund for a universal pension scheme and launch one by 2017.

People Power members Albert Chan Wai-yip and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, together with "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats, have said they will meet Tsang tomorrow. But Wong Yuk-man, also of People Power, has said he lacks interest and will attend a talk at a school.

Tsang is expected to try to persuade them to stop their filibustering, which is blocking the passage of this year's budget.

The four have filed more than 700 amendments to the budget bill in an attempt to force the government into a universal cash handout of HK$10,000 and a consultation on the pension scheme.

The seventh day of deliberations on the bill began yesterday morning with the fifth of 148 debate sessions triggered by the proposed amendments - this one on the budget of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

When the meeting ended at 10pm, the chamber had finished seven debates - the shortest lasting 46 minutes - and begun the eighth, on the Correctional Services Department budget.

The meeting was expected to resume this evening.

In the previous six days, only four debates were finished and dozens of quorum calls were made - whereby legislators are summoned to the chamber to ensure the minimum number are present so that debates can continue - in an effort to force an adjournment.

On April 25, the four radicals made 35 quorum calls during a 13-hour session. Although the required number of lawmakers made it to the chamber every time, the calls caused delays of more than six hours. They made only 10 quorum calls in yesterday's 10-hour session.

Last Wednesday, the four said they would tone down their filibustering - with fewer speeches and quorum calls - but they said it could still last another 50 days.