High hopes for charity cash as licence goes under the hammer

THE Financial Secretary, Mr Hamish Macleod, admits he will miss his official No 2 licence plate, which goes on the charity auction block today, but says his loss will be offset by the fortune the number is expected to fetch.

Mr Macleod yesterday took time out from a busy day, marked by the release of government budget expenditures for next year, to pose with the licence plate for the last time.

''I have some small sentiment attached to this one but my sentiment isn't worth a few million dollars,'' he said, sitting on the bonnet of his dark blue Jaguar.

Mr Macleod said he expected the plate could go for ''some millions'' at today's auction of lucky licence numbers, but he would not be more specific.

A Transport Department official had earlier predicted that Mr Macleod's coveted plate could inspire bidding beyond the previous record of $5 million, offered in 1988 for the No 8 plate.

The proceeds will go to the Lotteries Fund.

The No 2 is considered lucky by some Cantonese speakers because it sounds like ''easy''.

Mr Macleod yesterday insisted his gesture was not designed to engender good feelings before the release on Wednesday of the complete Budget. He said the timing of its sale was just coincidence.

When asked if any other top government officials planned to follow his example and put their plates up for bidding, Mr Macleod said: ''It's up to them.'' He added: ''They're not all lucky enough to have a nice number.'' Starting today, the Financial Secretary's car will bear an ''FS'' plate.