The government put a damper yesterday on a move in the Legislative Council to scrap the levy on employers of foreign domestic helpers. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung insisted that doing so would have an impact on government spending. Therefore, he said, the administration would urge Legco president Tsang Yok-sing to rule out of order any resolution to scrap the levy. Independent lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee had said she was confident the amendment could proceed. Mrs Ip, who is leading the campaign to abolish the levy, said on Sunday that she had received advice from Legco's legal counsel that her amendment to abolish the levy should be able to proceed. But at a meeting yesterday of a subcommittee examining the issue, Mr Cheung said the government was on firm legal footing. 'The government's view is that any [such] resolution ... to extend the levy suspension period, whether definitely or indefinitely, would have charging effect,' he said. Lawmakers may not put forward amendments with a 'charging effect' - meaning they reduce the government's revenue or increase its spending. But Mrs Ip, the chairwoman of the subcommittee, said yesterday she believed her amendment could proceed to a vote by the full Legco. 'According to the legal advice I have received so far, because the levy goes to a statutory fund it does not go into the general revenue so it has no charging effect in accordance with the rules of procedure,' she said. The HK$400 a month levy was imposed in 2003. It has been suspended since August 1. The levy has generated HK$4.9 billion for the Employees Retraining Board. Mr Cheung said: 'The levy is the lifeline of the board. Given the financial tsunami, the situation will be very tough so we will not support any proposal to abolish the levy.' A legislative procedure to retrospectively approve the two-year suspension of the levy, announced while Legco was in recess, is currently undergoing 'negative vetting' - meaning that unless an objection is received, it will become law. Legislators also rounded on Mr Cheung over a report in a Chinese- language newspaper in which an unnamed government source criticised legislators for being 'irrational and demanding'. The Democratic Party's Lee Wing-tat asked: 'Is it true the government has strong views about the legislators' proposed amendments, that [it thinks] we are irrational, veering to the left and becoming more and more demanding?' Mr Cheung retorted: 'I haven't had the chance to read the article.' He added: 'We don't comment on media reports, there are so many of them.'