Funding to provide housing allowances for about 700 native English-speaking teachers next year was passed by the provisional legislature after a heated debate. At the Finance Committee, Director of Education Helen Yu Lai Ching-ping said the plan could improve students' proficiency and maintain competitiveness. Mrs Yu said: 'Since we can't send the 500,000 students to learn English overseas, the best option is to employ good English teachers for them.' Under the scheme, a native English-speaking teacher would get a housing allowance of $13,000 a month. The amount was cut by $7,000 after teaching unions alleged discrimination. The gratuity for the teachers would be set at 15 per cent of the total salary on completion of two-year contracts. Liberal Party chairman Allen Lee Peng-fei, who supported the scheme, said a survey recently conducted by his office showed most interviewees believed it was reasonable to give a housing allowance to overseas teachers. Elsie Tu, who had sponsored a motion debate on the issue, said it was unfair to local teachers if special privileges were given to native English-speaking teachers. Another independent, Andrew Wong Wang-fat, said there should be equal pay for local and overseas English teachers, while Dr Leong Che-hung urged the Government to set out clearly the conditions for receipt of the benefit.