THE Legislative Council's inquiry into the sacking of ICAC officer Alex Tsui Ka-kit is in danger of undermining the commission's fight against corruption, Governor Chris Patten warned yesterday. Mr Patten, who described Mr Tsui's testimony at a hearing last week as ''unfounded allegations'', urged legislators to ''recognise that actions have consequences''. He said Mr Tsui's claims were jeopardising public support and understanding for the Independent Commission Against Corruption, (ICAC) he said. ''The bottom line is this: do we want an ICAC that is capable of beating corruption in Hong Kong or not? ''If they [legislators] succeed in undermining public confidence in the long-term work of the ICAC, then it would be a sad day for Hong Kong,'' he said in answer to a question from United Democrat James To Kun-sun. ''If at this juncture, for whatever reasons, we undermine the role of the ICAC, if we make it more difficult for it to carry out its task in the frontline against corruption, then the whole community will rue the day.'' While the anti-graft body should be accountable, one should not interfere with its internal management, he said. ''If there is a next time that management in the ICAC have an employee who they think for a variety of reasons should be dismissed, what conclusions after the first few weeks does one expect them to come to? ''I wonder what Sir Jack Cater or any of those who founded the ICAC and made it such a vigorous opponent of corruption would have thought if their ability to manage the institution had been affected in that way,'' Mr Patten said. This would also endanger staff doing sensitive jobs in the department, he said. ''How does the honourable member think they feel about the possibility that at any moment an operation in which they [the staff] are involved can be half-splashed over the papers or leaked to the papers?'' Mr Patten said he did not intend to inhibit the council but only wanted to remind it to discharge its responsibility carefully. The ICAC was monitored by an operations review committee comprised primarily of independent members, so checks and balances already existed. Responding to legislators' concern about the ICAC's alleged tapping of former senior government officials and politicians, Mr Patten said: ''There is no interception of telephone conversations for political purposes.'' He would only authorise interception in areas of corruption, crime and security, and they were carried out within the law, he said. The Law Reform Commission's report on privacy to be released in August would touch on this aspect, he said. Legislators defended the hearing into Mr Tsui's sacking. United Democrat Cheung Man-kwong said the Governor had over-reacted. ''How does the Governor know Legco members would not have challenged Mr Tsui if we had the time last week?,'' Mr Cheung said. ''How do you know at such an early stage that we would not have endeavoured to dig into the truth, and how do you know that we would not, after an enquiry, actually enhance the operation of the ICAC?'' Mr To said the council had been dealing with the case with great care. ''Of course, we know that our hearing will lead to consequences, but all along we have reacted to the case with rationality and caution. ''We listened to every word uttered by all the witnesses. The hearing has not finished and we cannot tell at this stage if the 'consequences' are worth it,'' he said.