Selective government

LEGISLATOR Mr James To Kun-sun's criticism of the Government for its refusal to set up a new independent body to review complaints against the police as it has been urged to do by the Legislative Council is likely to be dismissed in some quarters as astorm in a teacup.

Councillors accepted by 29 votes to 24 Mr To's motion last week urging replacement of the Complaints Against the Police Office (CAPO), the existing internal police operation. However the police themselves clearly support the alternative course outlined bythe Secretary for Security Mr Alistair Asprey, who said he would consider opening CAPO investigation teams to non-police personnel and would give the existing lay body, the Police Complaints Committee (PCC) statutory powers and access to complainants and witnesses.

Mr Asprey's proposals are great strides forward in making the police more publicly accountable and should not be dismissed lightly. Nonetheless, legislators are right to ask if police members of CAPO can be entirely objective. They might find their careers inside the force jeopardised if they are too intolerant of their colleagues' waywardness.

Clearly, the police dislikes having its evenhandedness questioned. However it does not make it immune to criticism.

The point raised by Mr To has less to do with the rights and wrongs of Mr Asprey's proposals than with the Government's attitude to Legco itself. True, the motion did no more than urge the Government to take a particular course. Mr Asprey also said Legcowould be consulted before the changes were made.

However, the administration's tendency to ignore Legco's motions and assume councillors will vote in favour of whatever legislation it eventually brings forward sits ill with its new determination to give Legco more democratic say. The Governor has publicly said that Legco should have the final veto on his constitutional plans. He should be wary of empowering legislators only when he finds it expedient.