The head of the legislature has renewed his call for a reform of the Executive Council, saying the council's two principles of confidentiality and collective responsibility should be reviewed.
Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said that if political parties were to be represented on the core policymaking body, the two principles - under which members must keep the council's deliberations and documents secret and share responsibility for its decisions - were "worth a rethink".
He elaborated on his views yesterday after his Sunday call for Exco reforms to restore its fading power. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had on Tuesday dismissed any such need.
The debate over reforms has intensified since Leung's administration was marred by a police investigation into his top aide and former executive councillor Barry Cheung Chun-yuen in connection with his failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange.
Tsang, who said on Sunday that Exco had been losing power since the handover, asked yesterday: "If we hope that different political parties can have representatives in Exco so that it can help the administration secure their parties' support for its policies, should we still strictly follow the two principles of confidentiality and collective responsibility?"
And if these principles remained, "would it make it more difficult for the parties' representatives to lobby colleagues' support in Legco?" he said.
Tsang also noted the two rules were not stipulated in the Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution. He said the principles were identified as early as 1992 by then governor Chris Patten, who did not appoint lawmakers to Exco.
The review should start now so that Exco could catch up with the political climate and fall in pace with the move towards universal suffrage, he said.
Former civil service secretary Joseph Wong Wing-ping agreed there was a need to improve Exco, but dismissed Tsang's suggestion. "It's just against common sense. No government … can function without the cabinet working under confidentiality."
He said Tsang should not confuse deliberations and decisions: the former should be kept secret to enable free discussion, while the council's decisions should be announced and explained to the public in due course.
Wong said rather than lifting the two principles, the chief executive should instead appoint only people who were genuinely capable and respectable.
The chief executive should also exercise discipline over Exco members, he said, criticising Leung's hesitation for days over whether to dismiss or suspend Cheung until his embattled aide resigned last Friday.
Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said the chief executive should be allowed to have a political party background to improve governance.
Exco member and lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said confidentiality must be upheld, adding that she and two other lawmakers had been supporting government policies.
Another Exco member, Chow Chung-kong, said one should not compare Exco's role before and after the handover because the political climate had changed over that time.