IT'S official. The Secretary for Environment, Planning and Works himself has confirmed it. The Legislative Council is a Potentially Hazardous Installation. The news broke when Tony Eason helpfully offered to define PHIs, as these monsters in our midst are codenamed to lull us into a false sense of security. ''A Potentially Hazardous Installation is an installation at which hazardous materials are stored in quantities equal to or greater than a specified quantity,'' he began. From around the chamber came the unmistakable sound of eyes glazing over. Not even Legislative Councillors, for whom the absorption and storage of vast quantities of similar bureaubabble is a professional hazard, could pretend to be interested in that. But wait! Did someone say hazard? A few councillors began to wake up. ''There are only 34 potentially hazardous installations in Hong Kong,'' Mr Eason was saying. ''They include the larger LPG [liquefied petroleum gas] storage facilities, gasworks . . . '' As the largest repository of hot air in the territory, Legco clearly comes into that category. Either the hazard had to be contained, Mr Eason said, or other measures would have to be considered. Relocation was one option. Alternatively, the Government might withhold a licence and formal design approval for an increased inventory level. That option should please Beijing. More democracy means more gas. By the time Legco's safety had been examined, most councillors were full of beans again and bursting to put questions of their own. Ngai Shiu-kit had one on localisation. How many civil servants, he asked, were having their Chinese proficiency assessed by their expatriate superiors? And what was the language of the assessment - Cantonese, Putonghua or English? Unfortunately, this penetrating inquiry did not get an answer in any language. It was felt to go beyond the scope of the debate. Not so Fred Li Wah-ming's verbal rugby tackle on acting Secretary for the Civil Service Stuart Harbinson, who had just assured him that expatriates were only brought in where no suitably qualified locals could be found. If so, why were policemen, some of them quite junior, regularly brought in from Britain at the inspectorate level? Was it very difficult to recruit inspectors among local people? And if it was, why did all the expatriates have to be Brits? Mr Harbinson took the criticism in his stride. The recruitment of British policemen, he admitted, was an exception to the localisation policy. And while there was no policy reason for recruiting exclusively from Britain, it was the traditional source. No one asked why the Police Commissioner thought it necessary to keep his expatriate super-sleuths. But maybe they were secretly employed to help Philip Wong Yu-hong with a particularly difficult investigation which nobody in government seemed to think was important. In the middle of a debate on whether banks should be required to hand over to the Government money which had lain unclaimed in dormant accounts, Mr Wong piped up to ask how much money had been lost in the sea or burned in fires? Funnily enough, the Government did not seem to be able to produce the statistics. Perhaps some over-zealous bureaucrat in the statistics department had sewn them up in a mattress for safe-keeping.