THE Liberal Party is opposed to a one-off grant of $23 billion to the MTRC for the airport railway, fearing this will strip the Legislative Council of its power to monitor the project. Party airport spokesman Steven Poon Kwok-lim said they welcomed the signing, but had yet to be convinced that Legco ought to grant $23 billion - believed to be the largest funding request ever made - in one go. The Secretary for Treasury Donald Tsang told lawmakers the Government would ask for the money as early as next Friday because the validity of the price offered by contractors for some key projects would expire next month. He said time did not allow the Government to proceed in stages and the MTRC and the PAA should be given the flexibility to carry out their work. The $23 billion would be sufficient for the MTRC to proceed with all urgent projects immediately, he said. Mr Tsang said later he did not think members would want to be asked to approve the $23 billion in parts one week after another. He said the administration would give further details on the funding request to the legislators in the next few weeks. Financial Secretary Sir Hamish Macleod said the equity injection for the Airport Railway would facilitate the start of major works, enabling the MTRC to take up option letters that it has signed on key contracts. China and Britain have agreed that the Government should put $23.7 billion to the airport railway. Legco has granted $700 million. Mr Tsang said the airport was less urgent and the PAA would not need funding until next year. Mr Poon said he doubted whether the cost of the few urgent projects came to $23 billion. If the legislature gave the green light to the funding application, he was worried that it would then be impossible for the council to keep an eye on the project. 'Isn't it better to keep the money in the Government's coffers than putting it in the MTRC account?' he asked. Pro-China legislator Tam Yiu-chung said that he agreed with the proposed equity injection of $23 billion but hoped the funding could be put in gradually to allow better monitoring. Democratic Party legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip said if the projects were not to kick off in the coming three months, he saw no point in granting $23 billion in one go. But he attacked the agreement as a very bad and an extremely cost-ineffective deal. Compared with the first financing proposal, this arrangement required an additional equity injection of $40 billion and Mr Chan said this had to be funded by taxpayers and probably at the expense of social services. Mr Chan also complained that the agreed minute was vague. For example, it failed to say how the role of the Airport Consultative Committee (ACC) was to be strengthened. He did not think the agreed minute would be the final chapter of the long running Sino-British airport row. There were bound to be further arguments on issues like airport design and the granting of franchises. Mr Poon also believed the proposed enhancement of the ACC role was likely to be a future bone of contention.