Amazing though it may seem, until now it was apparently illegal to take a pushchair into a playground run by the municipal councils. Or to dress too skimpily at one of their swimming pools. And anyone who visited their toilets too often could be charged with loitering under yet another outdated provision still on the statute books. Given how it ardently opposed abolishing the municipal councils, the Democratic Party could easily have refused to co-operate in sweeping away such anomalies. Instead it played a constructive role in yesterday's debate, forcing a sometimes-reluctant administration to make the necessary changes. 'We are against this bill,' Fred Li said. 'But we have done our best to identify inadequacies and improve upon them.' It was not always easy. Even on non-political issues, the Government was obstructionist, halting efforts to cap charges for street traders, who will now be left to the mercy of bureaucrats. But it could not block everything. So, thanks to amendments from the Democrats, parents are now free from prosecution for using pushchairs. As are those who spend too long in public toilets. The administration took the initiative in lifting the ban on sexy clothes by the poolside. It also deleted a technical amendment after the Democrats complained it might stop the display of pro-democracy statues such as the Pillar of Shame. Officials claimed this was never their intention. But it showed how carefully their opponents were following the bill. 'Let this be a lesson,' said Lee Wing-tat, warning the Government to think twice if it thought it could slip such changes through without the Democrats noticing. Such constructive criticism was in contrast to the shabby behaviour elsewhere in the chamber. With other parties changing their stance and allowing members to be absent for crucial votes, the result was never in any doubt. After all, if the Government had been in any danger of losing it would simply have bullied the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong into another U-turn. Just to be sure, scores of officials were posted outside the council chamber, to keep track of their voting fodder. Banker David Li was rushed back in with only a few seconds to spare before the final vote. One bureaucrat pointed with a smile to the unexpectedly empty seat of Provisional Regional Council chairman Lau Wong-fat, who strongly opposes abolition. The Democrats may have been doomed to lose. But at least they could take heart that their careful scrutiny had helped make a bad bill marginally better.