In 1994, referring to an increasingly tense relationship between the Legislative Council and his administration, former colonial governor Chris Patten described Hong Kong's constitution as 'a recipe for political and administrative gridlock' and called for 'goodwill and common sense on all sides' to make it work. Eight years on, co-operation between the administration and Legco is as much a concern for Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. Yesterday, the President of the Legislative Council, Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, joined in the fray by calling for more mutual respect between legislators and officials. While Mrs Fan was apparently referring to a few incidents in which legislators were upset that they were not informed of major government announcements beforehand, the problem actually runs deeper. And barring an overhaul of the system, it is difficult to see how the acrimonious atmosphere which has sometimes marred debates in the council can be eased. Under Hong Kong's executive-led system of government, Legco plays a limited role in governance because members are barred from initiating major policies. Their most effective weapon in pressing the administration to do what they want is to say no to funding requests and bills. Since anyone with political party affiliations cannot be the chief executive and political parties with electoral support in Legco cannot form the government, legislators' criticisms of the administration are not constrained by the possibility of them assuming office and having to eat their words. Mr Tung's solution to tame some of the nay-sayers in Legco was to form a ruling coalition with a few pro-government voting blocs in Legco. By appointing the leaders of the Liberal Party, Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong and Federation of Trade Unions to the Executive Council, he hopes to be able to assure the support of their 19 legislators. Under a new ministerial system, he has also appointed new bureau chiefs who are expected to be less hamstrung than civil servants have been in rebutting unjustified slurs. Since the new arrangements took shape on July 1, two major bills have been passed, one on cutting civil service pay and one on anti-terrorism. But although the bills were passed, the inherently confrontational relationship between the administration and Legco has not changed. What has changed is that legislators whose chiefs have been co-opted by Mr Tung have made a more concerted effort to defend the administration, while those from other parties have taken on a clearer role of being the opposition. From a governance point of view, the new arrangements should help Mr Tung get more results from Legco over the next five years. But they are unlikely to remove the venom from the words of legislators who are unlikely to be ever co-opted by him.