Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Legco committee chief plans attack on delaying tactics after length of debates doubles

Pan-democrat decries ‘declaration of war’ and vows to oppose Chan Kin-por’s changes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 10:59pm

The committee that approves or denies the government’s spending plans has doubled the amount of time it spends looking at each funding request, its chairman has said, blaming filibustering and declaring his resolve to curb that by tightening the rules.

Chan Kin-por said the average time lawmakers on the Legislative Council Finance Committee spent on each item increased from two hours in the 2015-16 session to 4.2 hours in the last one. Items took only 1.8 hours each to pass on average in the four sessions from 2012 to 2016.

In 123 hours of deliberation over the past year, the committee passed 29 proposals.

In the last Finance Committee meeting earlier this month, the pan-democrats dragged out a debate for seven hours in protest against the disqualification of four of their colleagues for improper oath-taking.

Chan admitted some officials’ attempts to address lawmakers’ concerns about funding requests had been unsatisfactory, but attributed the problem more to filibustering pan-democrats.

“Finance Committee is supposed to be a place for lawmakers to scrutinise funding requests instead of debating policies or venting emotions,” Chan said.

“I hope lawmakers will not forget their original goals and get things back on the right track.”

Chan proposed tightening the rules on delaying tactics, a plan likened by the pro-democracy camp to a “declaration of war”, and which looked set to fuel tensions between that bloc and the pro-establishment group when Legco resumes in October.

Under proposals Chan first voiced last week, lawmakers would only be allowed to request an adjournment of a meeting or discussion of an item, not both. And anyone expelled for inappropriate behaviour would be banned from the next session on the same day.

No-shows for Legco panel meetings hit a record high

Chan would also limit each member to only one non-binding motion per item discussed.

But on Thursday Chan floated even tougher options, including getting rid of non-binding motions.

“The [non-binding] motions could actually be entirely scrapped,” he said. He added that 10 per cent of meeting time over the past year was spent dealing with non-binding motions, most of which failed.

Chan also suggested exploring scrapping the public works and establishment subcommittees. He said around 79 to 89 per cent of items endorsed there were discussed again by the Finance Committee.

Chan would not be the first to attempt such a tightening of the rules.

Back in 2012, Beijing-friendly lawmaker Ip Kwok-him tried to do the same, in vain. Ip’s proposal failed, after rivals filed more than a million amendments to it.

Undeterred, Chan on Thursday pledged to discuss the plan with both camps.

But pan-democrat Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said his camp would use all means to block Chan’s plan, especially when the legislature was set to scrutinise contentious bills such as the proposal for mainland officers to enforce mainland laws at the terminal of the express rail link to Guangzhou.

Kwok said for Chan’s camp to force through the changes would be no different from rubbing salt into the pan-democrats’ wounds, after the four lawmakers’ disqualifications.

“It is a declaration of war against pan-democrats,” he said.