Hopes are high that Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa will go on a spending spree in next month's policy address. As was to be expected, politicians and political parties alike are queueing up to register their bids - more cash for the elderly, more subsidised housing, greater education spending, and big cuts in tax rates on profits and salaries. The scramble for a bigger slice of the spending cake is typical in advance of a pre-policy address; what is different this time is that the queue includes others besides just pressure groups and legislators. Members of the executive assembly are also joining in. Exco convenor Sir Sze-yuen Chung, members Henry Tang Ying-yen and Chung Shui-ming - all from the business sector - have publicly offered their views on tax cuts. Earlier, Mr Chung raised the possibility of a reduction in profits tax and recently Mr Tang, another provisional legislator, went a step further by estimating cuts in both corporate and salary tax rates. And Sir Sze-yuen suggested a reduction in the corporate tax rate would attract foreign investment. Mr Tang's open lobbying for tax cuts was promptly criticised by his Legco colleague Law Cheung-kwok, who charged the industrialist with misleading the public. Mr Law's argument is simple: as an Exco member with many avenues to express his views, it is inappropriate for Mr Tang to engage in this kind of open campaigning, since people may think Exco has reached a decision. But Mr Tang's Exco colleague, unionist Tam Yiu-chung, came to the industrialist's defence. Noting the assembly's rule of collective responsibility, Mr Tam referred to the freedom to speak before the council decided a particular issue. Mr Tam is technically right in his interpretation of the rule on collective responsibility but, taking into account public sensitivities over the tax issue, the wisdom of Mr Tang's high-profile lobbying is questionable. Worse still on this occasion is the public perception of what the lobbying amounts to. One has a right to ask what role Mr Tung has in this open campaigning: is the Chief Executive part of the lobbying, or only an impartial observer? Before Mr Tung was appointed chief, there was serious doubt about his background in some quarters. Worries were expressed that, as he was from the business community and had been the choice of the business community, he would also act for the business community. The composition of his inner cabinet supported such a belief. With rumours still circulating that Mr Tung depends heavily on the advice of some Exco members and has yet to develop a good rapport with the senior civil service, the views of Exco members may carry more weight with the public, politicians, or even civil servants than would otherwise be the case. Inevitably, Exco members' public expression of interest in the corporate-tax issue is being interpreted as a scene-setter for a cut in next year's Budget. If Mr Tung is still keeping an open mind on the subject, he will certainly have found his cabinet members' latest public remarks unhelpful. Should his administration decide to offer the tax cuts, critics will probably say he was behind the present campaign and the impending consultation with the legislature was just a cosmetic gesture. If the Government finally decides not to offer generous tax concessions, those Exco members who have spoken out for the change will find it extremely difficult to help defend the administration in future, a duty they are expected to perform. In the end, Mr Tung is likely to find himself in a no-win situation.