A senior official has rejected criticism that the Government has adopted delaying tactics in conducting a review of civil servants' pay and conditions. Secretary for Civil Service Joseph Wong Wing-ping, speaking a day after the review was announced, was responding to claims that the administration wanted to delay it until the economy improved. 'Definitely not,' he said. Speaking outside the Legco chamber yesterday, he stressed that the Government had treated the matter with importance and priority. 'We will not do it in haste. We will certainly not slow down the process.' He said he had listened and read commentaries which generally welcomed and supported the Government's decision. But unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan said the administration should scale down its review to avoid delivering a huge blow to the morale and stability of the 180,000-strong civil service. 'The biggest problem is that obviously the Government is conducting this review under political pressure from the business sector, which has their mind set that civil servants' pay should be slashed. 'This is collusion . . . it's a plot to enable the business sector to continue to justify its bid to suppress workers' pay in the private sector at the same time,' he claimed. Mr Wong promised that the three advisory bodies on civil service pay would conduct the review independently. He met the joint secretariat of the advisory bodies yesterday and expected them to hold a meeting soon. By then he hoped they would have formed views on how to proceed with the review and the timetable they had in mind for the first phase of work. On the question of whether the review would affect the pay of serving civil servants, Mr Wong said: 'I think it's too early to speculate on the outcome of the review. The salaries of serving civil servants are, of course, in a way, safeguarded by the Basic Law, which provides for a minimum level [of pay] i.e. the 1997 level.' He said the review would be guided by two principles - to acknowledge the importance of having a stable civil service, and that the outcome should serve the best interests of the community. Democrat Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, who is a member of the Standing Commission on Civil Service Salaries and Conditions of Service, one of the advisory bodies, warned: 'Unless the Government is able to pass a new law in the Legislative Council to give it legislative authority to reduce civil service pay . . . any pay cut is likely to face legal challenge from individual civil servants or civil service unions who will not be constrained from seeking a judicial review of such a decision.'