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New 70-member Legco shows little appetite for legislators' traditional scrutinising role

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 5:42am
 

Does a bigger Legislative Council mean more can be achieved? Perhaps not, if Legco's first year as a 70-member body is anything to go by.

Despite adding 10 extra members last year, the lawmakers - at least according to legal sector legislator Dennis Kwok Wing-hang - have shown little enthusiasm for one of their most important duties: scrutinising proposals and drawing up amendments.

"Committee stage amendments" allow lawmakers to contribute directly to the drafting of laws for the statute books.

Only four such amendments were put forward, all from the same two pan-democratic lawmakers, Kwok, of the Civic Party, and the Labour Party's Cyd Ho Sau-lan.

That was a sharp decline on the 19 amendments put forward in 2008-09, the first year of the previous legislature.

Both figures exclude amendments made to the budget bill, to which radical lawmakers last year proposed hundreds of amendments as part of a filibuster. In 2008-09, where there were no filibusters, there were 11 amendments offered to the bill.

Kwok had attempted to insert a clause in the Air Pollution Control (Amendment) Bill requiring the environment minister to consult the Department of Health when reviewing air-quality objectives. Ho wrote three changes to a bill on the regulation of the Arts Development Council. All of their amendments were rejected.

Kwok received more backing for an amendment that never reached a vote - a move that targeted a controversial law tabled by the government retrospectively limiting exports of infant formula to two cans per person, in a bid to thwart parallel traders.

Kwok wanted to make the definition of formula more specific, after people were prosecuted for carrying rice pudding and standard powdered milk, though their charges were later dropped.

Both Ho and Kwok said their colleagues may not be motivated to draw up their own amendments, as that would require exhaustive scrutiny of the entire bill. But both of them regarded this function to be a lawmaker's core role, along with scrutiny of public finances.

Kwok also blamed Beijing-loyalists for sticking to the government line and "irrationally" refusing to adopt improvements. "I didn't hear too many well-reasoned justifications when they opposed my points."

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