In a move condemned as "brutal interference" in Legislative Council affairs, the government has asked the Finance Committee chairman to cap the number of motions a lawmaker can move.
The call came in a letter from the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau aimed at heading off a filibuster planned by radical pan-democrats today.
In the letter dated May 22, the bureau also asked committee chairman Ng Leung-sing to make use of a meeting rule to kill members' motions.
The bureau warned the committee "would be failing to perform its statutory duties in a timely manner" in face of a "serious bunching" in the agenda.
"We believe a case can be made for [the committee] to consider reviewing the procedure regarding the handling of 37A motions, like whether or not a reasonable cap should be imposed on the total number of motions which can be moved by each member on each agenda item," the bureau wrote.
It was referring to paragraph 37A of the Finance Committee procedure which states that a lawmaker can move a motion without prior notice before an item is put to the vote.
It also said the committee chairman had to consider whether any motion was directly related to the agenda item and if so, whether a majority of members agreed it should proceed.
Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats, Gary Fan Kwok-wai of the NeoDemocrats, and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen of People Power have submitted 720 motions in an effort to delay voting by the committee today on a HK$340.8 million funding request for works at the Kwu Tung North and Fanling North new development areas.
A letter to Finance Committee members dated yesterday said Ng had "decided that nine of the motions were directly related to the agenda item and could be put to the committee to decide whether they should proceed".
Leung condemned the government's move as "brutal interference", adding: "It is even more ridiculous for Mr Ng to follow the government's instruction and ban our motions." He said he would consider moving a motion of no confidence in Ng.
A bureau spokeswoman would not comment last night.