Small brokers have been assured the government will act to ensure their survival after the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing board voted to scrap the minimum brokerage commission from April 1. After a three-hour board meeting, HKEx chief executive Kwong Ki-chi said brokers' calls to further delay in abolishing the 0.25 per cent minimum commission had been rejected. The removal has already been delayed for a year. 'With effect from that date [April 1], therefore, commissions will be freely negotiated between brokers and their clients,' Mr Kwong said. Mr Kwong said the HKEx board had taken into account the views of the government as set out in its letter on the eve of the vote which indicated 'the liberalisation of the commission rates with effect from April 1 is in the best interest of the public'. The minimum commission, introduced in 1986, was designed to prevent aggressive discounting by brokers. Brokers say the change will lead to cut-throat competition, forcing about 100 small players out of business and costing the jobs of about 7,000 securities staff. A street protest has been planned for January 23. Secretary for Financial Services and Treasury Frederick Ma Si-hang said the government would help brokers to cope with the change. 'This change may cause anxiety to the small and medium-size brokers. So the government's intention is to help them,' Mr Ma said. 'I will set up a tripartite forum, headed by the Financial Services and Treasury Bureau, to work together with the Securities and Futures Commission and HKEx, to look into ways to help the medium and small brokers.' Suggestions will be made within three months, he said. Legislator Henry Wu King-cheong welcomed the government's acceptance of his suggestion to set up the forum to help improve the operating environment of small brokers but opposed the removal of the cartel. The Hong Kong Stockbrokers Association's Wilfred Wong Wai-sum was disappointed about the exchange refusing to delay the abolition on minimum fees. He said many small players would be forced out of business.