An attempt by the government to repeal an obsolete law intended for setting a minimum wage but which has not been used in 70 years was unexpectedly scuttled yesterday. Lawmakers say the government should have scrapped the ordinance separately instead of scrapping it with a clause in the minimum wage law. Clause 18 of the minimum wage bill proposes abolishing the Trade Boards Ordinance, which empowers the chief executive to determine minimum wages and overtime pay for specific trades. The ordinance has not been invoked since its enactment in 1940. With the introduction of a city-wide statutory minimum wage, the government yesterday sought to repeal the ordinance, saying it is obsolete. But unionist lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung tabled an amendment to the bill, demanding the ordinance be retained. He said the ordinance's provisions on overtime pay would remain useful because Hong Kong does not have a law on standard working hours. His amendment was backed by unionists and pan-democrats, and opposed by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and other government allies. Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee of the Civic Party said tying the repeal proposal into the minimum wage bill was not going about it the right way. 'If the government wants to repeal an ordinance, it should do so in a proper manner,' she said. Leung's amendment was vetoed by functional constituency lawmakers under Legco's two-tier vote counting system. But the government's attempt to repeal the ordinance was also defeated. Accountancy sector lawmaker Paul Chan Mo-po and Kowloon West lawmaker Dr Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, both having voted against Leung's amendment, opposed and abstained on Clause 18, saying they found the government had not used the proper procedure. 'I agree that many clauses in the Trade Boards Ordinance are obsolete and we can consider scrapping them. But as many have pointed out, the government should do it through proper procedures,' Chan said. Leung said: 'As my amendment was vetoed, I thought I had lost. I was really surprised by the result.' Retaining the ordinance would only be 'symbolic', DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung said, because it would have no impact unless the chief executive were to invoke it. In 2006, cleaner Chan Noi-heung and legislator 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung sought a judicial review of the chief executive's refusal to implement a minimum wage, citing the Trade Boards Ordinance. The High Court later upheld the chief executive's discretion.