Regina Ip to try again after losing fight to scrap unpopular charge Hopes of quashing a levy on employers of foreign domestic helpers were dashed yesterday when lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee's proposed amendment to abolish the levy for good was voted down. The failure to pass the proposed amendment meant employers of migrant domestic helpers will only enjoy a suspension of the levy for five years - from August this year to the end of July, 2013. Money raised from the levy, which was introduced in 2003, goes to the Employees' Retraining Board. Twenty-one lawmakers from geographical constituencies voted for Mrs Ip's proposed amendment, while seven objected to it. Only seven legislators from functional constituencies supported the amendment, while 21 voted against it. To pass, it would have needed a majority among both geographical and functional constituency legislators. Mrs Ip said the amendment was voted down after the government had lobbied certain lawmakers. She said she did not feel defeated and would try to have the levy scrapped in the future. Mrs Ip told the Legislative Council yesterday that it was not fair to impose a levy on employers of foreign domestic helpers to fund the Employees' Retraining Board. 'The levy policy is a poor-quality government policy and a failure, and it should be abolished as soon as possible,' she said. But Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the government's five-year levy-suspension proposal was a practical solution as it gave some economic relief to the middle class but would ensure a stable income for the retraining board in the long run. 'The demand for the board's services will go up as more workers will possibly lose their jobs as Hong Kong is affected by the financial tsunami,' he said. 'It is important to make sure the board has a stable income in five years' time.' Despite winning support from major parties, including the Democratic Party and Liberal Party, the numbers for Mrs Ip's amendment were not enough to defeat pro-government forces. Lee Wing-tat, of the Democratic Party, questioned the government's consistency when implementing the levy policy by targeting employers of foreign domestic helpers. 'If employers of foreign domestic helpers have to pay the levy, then why do big corporations which hire expatriates not have to pay it for importing foreign workers?' he said. Civic Party member Ronny Tong Ka-wah said the levy for foreign domestic helpers should be scrapped but the government could tax people who employ migrant workers for business purposes. 'Employers of foreign domestic helpers are not hiring these workers to run businesses,' Mr Tong said. 'They have to hire foreign domestic maids because they have to work and they need someone to help them take care of their families.' Liberal Party chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee said it was the government's responsibility to train and retrain workers, not the responsibility of employers of domestic helpers. But the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's Ip Kwok-him said the party would not support Mrs Ip because scrapping the levy meant the Employees' Retraining Board would lose a stable income source. 'The board helps retrain workers with low skills and little education to help them find jobs. It is important to make sure the board enjoys stable income sources,' he said. Federation of Trade Unions chairman Wong Kwok-kin said the amendment would lower the cost of importing migrant workers, making it difficult for locals to compete. All those against Those in functional constituencies who voted against Regina Ip's amendment: Raymond Ho Chung-tai, Sophie Leung Lau Yau-fun, Philip Wong Yu-hong, Wong Yung-kan, Lau Wong-fat, Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, Abraham Razack, Li Fung-ying, Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, Wong Ting-kwong, Chim Pui-chung, Patrick Lau Sau-shing, Lam Tai-fai, Paul Chan Mo-po, Chan Kin-por, Leung Ka-lau, Ip Wai-ming, Ip Kwok-him, Pan Pey-chyou, Paul Tse Wai-chun, Samson Tam Wai-ho. Geographical constituencies: Chan Kam-lam, Lau Kong-wah, Tam Yiu-chung, Wong Kwok-hing, Starry Lee Wai-king, Gary Chan Hak-kan, Wong Kwok-kin.