Legco to launch inquiry into controversial delay to high-speed rail link

Legco select committee will not have power to summon witnesses

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 June, 2014, 6:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 June, 2014, 9:11am

The Legislative Council will launch a lower-level investigation of the two-year delay to the high-speed cross-border railway after a call to invoke its powers was vetoed.

Lawmakers agreed yesterday to set up a select committee to look into the hold-up over the HK$67 billion project, now due to open in 2017 instead of next year.

The committee is the third body set up to investigate the project after an inquiry panel launched by the MTR and an independent inquiry headed by a retired High Court judge, set up by the government.

Unlike the proposed inquiry under the Legco Powers and Privileges Ordinance, which failed to reach the agenda of the House Committee two weeks ago, the select committee will not have the power to summon witnesses.

A petition presented by Democratic Party lawmaker Wu Chi-wai to the Legislative Council yesterday, requiring the backing of 20 lawmakers, was supported by 23 pan-democrats.

The House Committee is expected to discuss details of the select committee next Friday.

Wu said he hoped the new committee would find out who was responsible for the delay.

"The officials could refuse to attend our meeting, but then the public can make a judgment on that," said Wu, who with Gary Fan Kwok-wai had pushed for the inquiry.

Last month, the government appointed Mr Justice Michael Hartmann, a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal, to chair a three-member independent expert panel to identify what went wrong with the project, but not to look for who was personally responsible.

The MTR also appointed an independent non-executive director and former government minister Frederick Ma Si-hang to head an inquiry into how its management handled the issue.

Wu said the corporation had promised to allow lawmakers to read all papers related to the project on the condition that they kept the documents confidential.

"I hope to rely on these raw materials [to question the MTR management and officials] although we have no power to [summon them]," Wu said.

He said the probe would take at least six months and he hoped lawmakers would not mind having meetings during the summer break, which starts next month.