DEMOCRATIC Party legislator Lau Chin-shek yesterday tendered his resignation from the Legislative Council, but stipulated it would not take effect until the day after the bill which caused the furore was passed or rejected. His last-minute move, at the behest of his political colleagues, means he could serve well into next year and possibly long enough to prevent a by-election being needed before the last general elections under British rule. His letter of resignation, steeped in criticism of the Government's withdrawal of the Employment Ordinance (Amendment) Bill after he had succeeded in altering it, was handed into Government House late in the afternoon. It was a day of drama and confusion that began when he and Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming stepped up to the microphones on the steps of Government House, just after Mr Lau had met Governor Chris Patten. Party leaders were waiting for Mr Lau when he emerged from the meeting. In their huddle, Mr Lee told Mr L au he should withdraw from the party if he decided to resign with immediate effect. Then at about 10.30 Mr Lau said that he had no other choice but to preserve the unity of the party and abide by its directive to postpone his resignation until after the bill was disposed of by the Legislative Council. He admitted there were differences between the party's understanding of the issue and his own, stressing his was that this was a matter of principle. The party asked Mr Lau to stay after the Government showed signs of compromising on the package of workers' benefits which Mr Lau had been fighting for and the wider issue of the administration 'promising' not to pass legislation without the support of Legco. Asked if he was being dishonest and had backed down from his original decision, Mr Lau said: 'I will bear all the political impact of my decision.' 'If voters find me at fault, they can vote for other candidates [in future elections]. 'I have taken into account all these factors and I am ready to take all these criticisms. However, I must say that the interests of the party as well as its unity would come first.' Reports he had decided to stay in Legco caused a flood of congratulatory calls to his office at the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee in Tsim Sha Tsui. Mr Patten and Legco colleagues, including industrialist Henry Tang Ying-yen, welcomed such a move. But about 3 pm, Mr Lau called a meeting with Mr Lee, Party vice-chairman Yeung Sum and central standing committee member Lee Wing-tat to inform them of his final decision to quit, after the bill was passed or rejected. Last night, the party expressed its deep regret about Mr Lau's decision to leave Legco but said it respected his move. In his letter to Mr Patten, Mr Lau said he had chosen to resign because he would not permit the 'sovereignty of the vote' to be 'scorned and trampled upon'. Mr Lau said he hoped his resignation would bring changes to the dominant political culture, which made too many compromises. He added he felt obliged to see the bill disposed of before he left the legislature. The resignation of Mr Lau would leave a vacancy in the directly elected constituency at Kowloon Central. However, the need for a by-election would hinge on when his resignation came into effect. The Electoral Provisions Ordinance says that no by-election would be held within the four months preceding the next election.