Arthur Li hits back at critics, warning he is prepared to hold up aid for kindergarten The secretary for education and manpower yesterday threatened to delay introducing the kindergarten voucher scheme in the next school year. Reacting to criticisms from the Legislative Council's education panel special meeting earlier in the day, Arthur Li Kwok-cheung said he was prepared to stall the process until an agreement had been reached. 'I think it is unlikely that we will get this scheme through in 2007-08,' he said. 'I believe we will have to leave it to the next government to decide what to do.' He was disappointed kindergarten representatives had gone back on a 'unanimous' agreement made at a meeting last Saturday by opposing the proposals in Legco. He added he was unsure legislators would support the proposal if it was put to the financial committee on December 1 as scheduled. 'Under these circumstances it would be very difficult to take the proposals to the Finance Committee,' he said. However, one preschool representative said the education minister was trying to 'scare' those who disagreed with him. 'I am very confident that the proposal would be approved,' said Mary Tong Siu-fun, head of the Hong Kong Kindergarten Association. About two dozen preschool and social services groups had aired concerns about the scheme at yesterday's education panel meeting. Some called for the extension of subsidies to include children aged two to three, the retainment of a salary scale for teachers, which will be removed when the voucher scheme is put in place, and the availability of more subsidies for full-day preschools. Trade union legislator Lee Cheuk-yan berated Professor Li for suggesting he might withdraw the HK$2 billion proposal. 'I feel this type of attitude is reflective of the style of 'King Arthur',' he said. 'Is the money yours? This money belongs to the taxpayers.' Ada Mak Tse How-ling, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Institute of Education Past Students' Association of Early Childhood Teacher Education, said it was ridiculous to say groups did not support the proposal. Education legislator Cheung Man-kwong said despite differing opinions, there had been overall support for the proposal from all major political parties at the meeting - including the Democratic Party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Liberal Party. DAB legislator Chan Kam-lam, revealing the party stance, said: 'We will support [the scheme] for sure. Parents can be subsidised immediately, and Arthur Li has already talked over the issue with many schools.' Liberal Party panellist Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said it would approve the scheme. 'Most of the parents will benefit, even though it's not a perfect scheme.' The Civic Party's Ronny Tong Ka-wah said: 'We should be watchful the proposals. We are calling for a plan that covers all parents.'