THE controversial Court of Final Appeal bill is not expected to be put before the Legislative Council until next year, and Beijing will be consulted on the details of the proposed legislation before it is made public. Despite recent suggestions that the bill is almost ready, it is understood there is still considerable work to be done in preparing it. The legislation is not expected to be ready in time to be presented to the Chinese side at the next meeting of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG) in September. However, the text may be passed over at informal contacts between the two JLG teams later in the year. Chinese legal expert Wu Jianfan warned last week that Britain and China still had to discuss detailed matters related to the court, and that a clause in the 1990 agreement on the issue stipulated the need for further negotiations. Governor Chris Patten recently made it clear he believes the controversial 4 + 1 accord, which allows only one foreign judge to sit on the future court, should be implemented and the court set up before 1997. But considerable opposition is expected to any attempt to do so. Although the Executive Council has already been consulted, it has yet to make a final decision. Executive Councillor Professor Edward Chen Kwan-yiu has already made it clear he will speak out against the restriction on the number of judges when the bill comes before Exco. Even more intense opposition is expected from Legco, where many claim the 4 + 1 accord violates the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. Legislators voted 34-11 against the accord in December 1991. While some have since signalled a willingness to look again at the issue, others maintain the court should not be set up before 1997. Legal representative Simon Ip Sik-on recently said he believed the 4 + 1 accord would then become void, and the court could instead be set up with a more flexible composition of judges. But this was rebutted by China's top official on Hong Kong affairs, Lu Ping, who said the agreement would still be observed, even if the court was established after 1997.