• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 12:25pm
NewsHong Kong

Queen Mary Hospital to get HK$1.6b overhaul as Legco says 'yes' in dying seconds of meeting

In last meeting of Legco's Finance Committee before the summer recess, a flurry of measures pass

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 July, 2014, 1:39pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 July, 2014, 9:11am

A HK$1.6 billion request for funds to redevelop Queen Mary Hospital received unanimous support from lawmakers yesterday, passing in the final minute of the Legislative Council Finance Committee's final meeting before the summer break.

Lawmakers approved 21 items on the agenda but did not get to 17 other proposals, which will now be delayed for at least three months.

They include funding to extend three landfills, an incinerator project, an allowance for low-income families, a pay rise for civil servants and a new innovation and technology bureau.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor expressed disappointment that the committee did not get to those items. She said the government would have to find a way to minimise the impact of the delay to the low-income family allowance.

Finance Committee chairman Ng Leung-sing said it was unlikely any extra meetings would be added over the summer recess to deal with the backlog.

Lawmakers apparently speeded up their scrutiny of proposals before them yesterday after they managed to approve only six items during a six-hour session on Friday.

Yesterday's eight-hour session, called as an extension to Friday's to deal with the backlog, got off to a slow start. Lawmakers approved five plans in the first four hours. But in the second half, they pushed through 16 more.

Those included a one-month rent waiver for more than 760,000 public housing tenants, an extra month's payment for 1.1 million social security recipients and the Queen Mary Hospital plan, which was approved at 6.39pm - the last minute of the meeting.

All of the 44 lawmakers who attended the meeting voted in favour of the hospital plan. No questions were asked before the vote. Ng does not vote.

Professor Lo Chung-mau, the hospital's chief of surgery, told Cable TV after the vote that he was "happy and excited" by the news.

"It's been a roller-coaster ride," Lo said. "When we knew that the Finance Committee might not be able to approve it, we were very disappointed. But it was very fortunate that it got through at the last minute."

The HK$1.6 billion would cover only the first phase of the hospital's redevelopment.

The plan was approved hours after Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man made a final appeal for support yesterday morning.

"Historical problems [at the hospital] mean equipment and space are inadequate to meet its needs," Ko said. "I think all residents would share the hope that it can be rebuilt as soon as possible, and this is also a very strong hope among our health-care workers."

The backlog of requests before the committee was made worse by pan-democrats' filibuster in protest at funding for a contentious plan to develop two new towns in the northeastern New Territories. The plan was approved last month after a two-month debate.

Ng, who was heavily criticised for his handling of those meetings, would not assign blame for the delay to 17 proposals. "Is it the filibustering or the political climate? It's difficult for me to say, [but] the public can think about it," he said.

Former Legco president Andrew Wong Wang-fat did not mince words about who was to blame. "It was the government who attacked the lawmakers first," he said.

On Thursday, 27 pan-democrats asked the government to reorder the committee's agenda, so that they could vote on the less controversial plans first, ahead of the more divisive landfill extension plans. The government and the pro-establishment camp dismissed their request.


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This article is now closed to comments

OK lads and lasses of Legco, don't go on your three month holiday yet - finish the job you are paid and elected (we shall remember come the next election) to do.
I do not understand why there cannot be extra meetings during the summer recess to deal with the backlog. Surely our legislators are paid their salaries even during the hot summer months of July and August. When there are important funding requests to be decided on that affect people's livelihood surely it would not be unthinkable to slot in several extra meetings. Taxpayers foot the bill for the legislators' salaries. Surely asking them to forego part of their summer vacation isn't asking too much is it?
If they reshuffled the projects then the others would be able to use filibustering every time they don't get their way.
If funding doesn't pass then a 'pox on all your houses' as it's clear that something like the Disney Hotel is of greater importance than the care of the sick on HK island!
The legislators should continue to work even through the summer months, to ensure all the funding requests were debated and voted. They were voted in by the people to work for the people. Most working people don't get a 3-month vacation in Hong Kong.
The government and pro-establishment camp want to play games with people's livelihoods. If they were concerned about the people they'd have reshuffled the agenda. The unelected lawmakers have nothing to lose because they are elected by a small group of people so of course they will go against the grain. How many questions did these guys ask or proposed amendments did they put forth? They are just puppets for the government and Beijing. As for the government, they don't want people scrutinizing their funding requests or to propose amendments to controversial items on the agenda, so naturally they will not cooperated with the elected lawmakers.
Wake up! Who play the games?
Did you read my message?
Drop in the ocean. Ought to be $16 bn or more.
Job well done !


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