'Thrash out the issues in subcommittees'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 July, 2014, 4:38am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 July, 2014, 6:03pm

The beleaguered chairman of the Legislative Council Finance Committee has urged lawmakers to settle their disputes before bringing contentious matters to the committee for a vote.

Ng Leung-sing - fresh from a bruising battle over northeastern New Territories development during which he survived a no-confidence motion - said the issues should be thrashed out in the subcommittees first.

"The Finance Committee has been repeatedly discussing the same issues - or even the same motions - which have already been debated in the two subcommittees," Ng told the South China Morning Post on Monday.

Repeating the debates was "very unfair to the Finance Committee" and sending the items forward would "send the wrong message to the government that they could be approved", he said.

The Finance Committee's two subcommittees - Public Works and Establishment - discuss infrastructure and civil service matters, respectively, before sending them to the 69-member main committee for funding approval.

The Finance Committee failed to scrutinise 17 scheduled items before its summer break because of delaying tactics by radical lawmakers on the New Territories plan and waste-management proposals.

Ng faced the a no-confidence motion for allegedly breaching house rules by forcing through a vote on the HK$340 million funding application for projects linked to new-town developments in Kwu Tung North and Fanling North.

"In the coming session, the two subcommittees should try their best to resolve every conflict … before passing the items to [the Finance Committee]," he told the Post, ahead of a press conference today in which he will review his year as committee chairman.

The subcommittees should either call more meetings to demand government clarification of unclear matters or directly kill the funding requests on which they failed to reach consensus, instead of pushing items with inadequate support to the Finance Committee, he said.

But accountancy lawmaker Kenneth Leung, deputy chairman of the Establishment Subcommittee, said Ng's advice "would not work".

"The subcommittee comprises only some 10 lawmakers … it is impossible not to debate the items in the Finance Committee," he said.

Finance Committee deputy chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said: "Lawmakers only repeat the questions when they find it necessary."

Under arrangements agreed by lawmakers, Ng and the Liberal Party's Tommy Cheung Yu-yan will take turns to chair the committee during the legislature's current four-year term. Cheung is due take over in October when Legco resumes after its recess.

Ng, a non-aligned lawmaker with a strong pro-Beijing background, said he had yet to decide whether to helm the committee when his turn came round again.