The National People's Congress will take a firm grip on its law-making functions to spur development of a socialist market economy, NPC vice-chairman Tian Jiyun said yesterday. Delivering the annual NPC work report in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Mr Tian emphasised the relationship between rule by law and the operation of a market economy. He told deputies to keep the making of economic laws their top priority. 'We should step forward to establish a legal system for the socialist market economy,' he said. The NPC work report said that of the 95 legal decisions made by the NPC and the standing committee last year, 39 had concerned the economy. Mr Tian also called for tight supervision of the implementation of China's constitution and its laws. 'Our aim is to promote the principle that the administrative departments work in accordance with the law and the law-enforcing bodies play fair,' he said. But some deputies reacted conservatively to the promotion of legal concepts. The problem was highlighted by the slow implementation of the Agricultural Law introduced in 1993. 'Most farmers do not know how to write their names. How can you expect them to understand the laws?' asked a delegate from a village in the south of Anhui province. The vice-chairman of the NPC's standing committee, Buhe , criticised some cadres in rural villages for lacking legal consciousness. 'Some cadres still rely on administrative measures to run the agricultural industry. They don't have the sense and ability to rule by law,' he said. 'Also, many farmers do not know how to apply the laws to protect themselves.' His supervisory report on implementation of the Agricultural Law rebuked the Government for poor farming efforts. On Friday, congress members will vote on two pieces of legislation drawn up by the standing committee - the draft of China's first National Defence Law and amendments to the 17-year-old Criminal Law. Delegates from the People's Liberation Army said they expected the new defence law would help to advance the building of the military, but did not elaborate. The appearance of People's Liberation Army member Shao Hua , daughter-in-law of Chairman Mao Zedong , caused a brief commotion before the meeting started. Congress members gathered around Ms Shao, asking for her autograph.