Legco success hits low point as fewer than one third of bills passed into law

Efficiency of government and lawmakers called into question as fewer than a third of gazetted bills are passed in current legislative session

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 July, 2014, 5:43am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 July, 2014, 7:10am

Fewer than a third of the bills gazetted by the government have been passed in this legislative session - the worst performance for several years. It raises questions about the executive's efficiency as well as its relations with the legislature.

Ahead of the Legislative Council meeting that starts on Wednesday - its last before the summer recess - lawmakers have approved only eight of 29 bills.

If they approve four more bills by the end of business on July 15, it would take the legislative success rate from 28 per cent to 41 per cent.

But that would still be lower than the previous legislative year, when 14 of 22 bills, or 64 per cent, were passed into law, according to Legco's website.

In 2010-11, the penultimate year of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's term as chief executive, the success rate was 48 per cent. In the legislative year that followed - the last of Legco's four-year term - all bills gazetted were approved.

The four items of legislation scheduled for their third and final readings this week are a supplementary appropriations bill, and amendments to marriage, shipping and electoral laws.

Scrutiny of 17 other bills will resume when Legco reconvenes in October.

Of these, amendments to the Mandatory Provident Fund schemes, veterinary surgeons registration and the Land Bill are all scheduled for first readings on Wednesday.

The remaining 14 - including bills to tighten regulation of the fast-growing private columbariums business and an amendment to employment law to introduce statutory paternity leave - are still being vetted by various Legco committees.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, vice-chairman of Legco's House Committee, dismissed talk that Legco's success rate this year was affected by radical lawmakers' filibusters. Tong said the blame lay with government inefficiency. "The legislative-executive relationship is a reason … [but when] we reminded the government repeatedly that they are behind schedule, their usual reply was that they are already working hard, and that they hope to submit all their planned bills by the year's end," Tong said.

"The adverse effect is that we are being slow in improving our laws … and the slow progress on bills such as [those on] copyright and private columbariums would affect the people, too."

Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit said the low success rate was "caused by a chief executive who doesn't want to engage Legco", while Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing criticised the administration for "not doing enough in listening to the public".

But a government spokesman countered that the administration had "largely adhered to the legislative programme".

"Whether the scrutiny of bills can be completed quickly will depend on the progress of the bills committee meetings and the complexity of bills," the spokesman said. "We will continue to strive to arrange for the timely first reading of bills."

Apart from the pending bills, the government has yet to table three amendments that were included in its legislative programme - to regulate the disposal of electronic appliances, and to amend the clearing and settlement systems and securities and futures bills.

Of this delay, the spokesman said that "introduction of some individual bills is slower than expected in some cases due to … the need to conduct thorough consultation".



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7 Jul 2014
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