Unionist's attempt to widen millennium holiday ruled offside

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 July, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 July, 1999, 12:00am

The Government last night opposed a private member's bill to make New Year's Eve a statutory holiday, which would have given most workers the day off.

Legco had already voted two weeks ago to make the day a general holiday - covering bank, government and school staff but not others.

Secretary for Education and Manpower Joseph Wong Wing-ping said the reason for making December 31 a general holiday was to give banks and others an extra opportunity to deal with any Y2K problems that may arise.

'It is not the Government's intention to provide additional employee benefit by this one-off arrangement,' he said.

In a letter to legislators, he said the private member's bill by unionist legislator Leung Yiu-chung breached the Basic Law, Article 74 of which says lawmakers cannot table bills dealing with 'government policies' without the written consent of the Chief Executive.

Mr Wong said 'government policy' had a broad meaning.

'It covers not only the situations where decisions or policies have been made by the Government, but also where policies are formulated and where the Government has decided not to formulate a policy,' he said.

'The term also covers policies which should be determined by the Government.' It was the latest in a growing list of private member's bills to be ruled offside.

Legislators have proposed 10 private member's bills in the past year but only one, by independent Eric Li Ka-cheung, passed into law.

Three bills were ruled down by Legco President Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai and officials opposed four others.

The administration is still considering a harbour protection bill by Christine Loh Kung-wai of the Citizens Party.

Mr Leung said last night: 'The Government is trying to block all private member's bills and make the Legislative Council a big rubber stamp.'