Site fund block threat

UNITED Democrat legislators yesterday threatened to block funds for development of military sites if they were not consulted before China and Britain struck a deal.

Lee Wing-tat asked at a security panel meeting whether legislators would have a say in the relocation of military sites.

The Deputy Secretary for Security, James Morris, said the legislature would have an indirect say, because the Government would have to seek funds from the Finance Committee to develop sites.

Mr Lee's query came on the eve of a meeting of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG) expert sub-group on defence.

The four-day session starting today should clear final obstacles on technical issues, which should lead the sides closer to agreement on disposal of sites.

Mr Morris said the aim was to maximise gains for the territory by converting military sites into commercial use. He declined to state the number of sites.

Mr Lee said legislators might have to resort to blocking funding proposals if they did not have a say in the allocation of sites.

Independent legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing hoped more sites might be redeveloped.

Legislators were also unhappy that Hong Kong had to shoulder 65 per cent of the costs of the British Garrison.

United Democrat Cheung Man-kwong urged the Government to negotiate with Britain to reduce Hong Kong' share of defence costs.

The Deputy Secretary for the Treasury, Kwong Ki-chi, said spending on defence costs in the Budget would be reduced from last year's $1.6 billion due to a reduction in the size of the Garrison.