The Liberal Party has given conditional support to lawmakers who want special powers to seek sensitive information related to electricity charges. The lawmakers want a resolution on powers to elicit information from the environment chief on tariff rises and development plans of the two electricity suppliers.
But the pro-business Liberal Party said the resolution must allow the utilities to 'protect sensitive business information'.
The Legislative Council's House Committee voted 29-16 to pass the resolution on Friday, urging the government to produce documents about the requested tariff rises by CLP Power and Hongkong Electric, and their five-year development plan. The full legislature will vote on the resolution on February 8, to invoke special powers under its Powers and Privileges Ordinance.
Liberal Party chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee said: 'We had worries that the special powers could allow access even to secret business information - such as the forward contracts - jeopardising business operations. But there is a need for extra information to sort out details of the [tariff] rises, as the two operators are franchised companies and affect the public interest.'
The Liberals proposed seeking documents only if they were in the public interest, did not interfere with business operations and protected sensitive commercial information.
The increases - 6.3 per cent for Hongkong Electric and 9.2 per cent for CLP Power when initially announced last month - have been revised amid public outcry. But even the heavily reduced 4.9 per cent for CLP Power was criticised.
Lau said there should be enough support for the resolution to pass, although it may meet resistance from functional constituency lawmakers. The amendment will need to secure a majority of votes in the functional and geographical constituencies.