The Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Michael Suen Ming-yeung, warned yesterday that the Government will not accept substantive amendments to its electoral proposals when they come up for provisional legislature debate this weekend. If the administration sticks to that position, whatever the legislature does, it will send a message that it regards the council as no more than a rubber stamp for government policy. Not that the squabbling over some amendments has been particularly dignified or done much to bring credit to these controversial proposals. In a clear-cut conflict of interest, several provisional legislators are actively seeking to alter the franchise for seats they are thinking of contesting. In some cases, such amendments could decide the outcome of the battle for those constituencies, thus reducing the actual electoral process to a formality. In the textile and garments constituency, nearly 1,000 votes hang on efforts by legislator Charles Yeung Chun-kam to enfranchise all members of two organisations that he and his brother control. Mr Yeung, not surprisingly, is interested in contesting this seat. In the transport constituency, an amendment by aspiring candidate Yuan Wu would give three groups the power to determine who is elected. Another legislator, Professor Ng Ching-fai, is trying to create a separate seat for higher education, apparently to give him an alternative to being beaten by the Democratic Party's Cheung Man-kwong in the teaching constituency. The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong wants to expand the social welfare constituency to include workers in district organisations, where it has strong support. This has prompted strong opposition from social workers. Such arguments highlight the shortcomings of the small seats the Government has introduced. After Tung Chee-hwa's vigorous defence of the arrangements in the United States earlier this month, it seemed that opinion might swing towards accepting their inevitability. Even the departing British envoy, Hugh Davies, spoke of them as a fait accompli. But that could change if provisional legislators are seen to put their own electoral advantage ahead of trying to achieve the fairest possible arrangements within the restrictive framework on offer. If provisional legislators want to win greater confidence from the community, they must start by creating a better impression in tomorrow's debate. And, if they do so, the Government should listen to what they have to say.