{[ promptMessage ]}

Bookmark it

{[ promptMessage ]}

sosc179L3 - Spring 2004 L3 LECTURE 3 The Legislative...

Info iconThis preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: Spring 2004 L3 LECTURE 3 The Legislative Council (A) The Composition At the very beginning, only official members (官守議員), meaning government officials, were represented in the Legco. Appointed unofficials (非官守議員) were introduced since 1850. The unofficials were mostly representatives from big businesses, especially British trading firms. Before the introduction of elected members into the Legco, the appointed unofficials were supposed to reflect public opinion to the government. Indirect elections (Electoral College 選舉委員會) and election with limited franchise (functional constituencies 功能組別選舉) were introduced in 1985. The Electoral College was formed by District Board members in 1985-91 but it ceased to be a form of election in 1991-95. The functional constituencies represent major business and professional groups, and ordinary citizens had no right to elect a Legco member before 1991. Direct election was introduced in 1991 (18 seats). The Legco became fully elected in 1995, with 20 of the 60 members directly elected. Annex II of the Basic Law defines the composition of the Legco from 1997 to 2008, with the directly-elected seats gradually increasing from 18 to 30. Basic Law Article 48 stipulates that all Legco seats will ultimately be popularly elected. (B) Operational Characteristics Before 1994, the Governor was the Chairman of the Legco, which means he controlled the order and agenda of the Legco. The Governor can dissolve the Legco anytime. In 1991-94, the Governor no longer chaired the Legco, but appointed a Deputy Chairman John Swaine (施偉賢) to chair the meeting. After 1994, the Chairperson of the Legco was elected by all Legco members. Voting by acclamation (聲音表決) or voting by division (記名表決). 1 Spring 2004 L3 The House Committee (內務委員會) decides on the agenda and necessary consensus before the meeting. It will also decide if a bill committee needs to be formed for a bill. (C) Major Powers and Functions of the Legislative Council (1) Passing of Ordinances The power of initiation of bills mostly lies with the Government. The Basic Law says that government bills have priority on the Legco agenda (Art.72). The government can initiate technical amendments to bills, new bills or amendment to bills for changes in government policies, or on completely new subjects (e.g. anti-terrorist law in 2002). The process of legislation largely follows that in the British House of Commons (英國下議院). The First Reading (首讀) is only formal announcement. It means that the bill is officially introduced to the Legislative Council. After First Reading, the bill is in the Second Reading Stage (二讀階段). Usually the bill will first be passed to the House Committee (內務委員會), which will decide if a bill committee (法案委員會) needs to be formed to deliberate on the details of the bill. Bills that do not require bill committees will go to the Legco directly for Second Reading debate. The Legco members are free to join the bill committees. The bill committee will hold meetings to scrutinize the bill clause by clause. The bill committee does not have power to amend or vote on the bill. It can give opinions on the bill, and put pressure on the government to amend the contents of the bill. For example, the bill committee on the National Security Bill (國家安全條例草案) in 2003 met for 180 hours and forced the govt. to put in 51 amendments. The Second Reading debate (二讀辯論) is a debate on general principles of the bill. The whole Legco will vote on the Second Reading to see if the bill will be accepted in principle. 2 Spring 2004 L3 If passed, the bill will then go to the committee stage (委員會階段), where the members will focus on the writing, wording, and technical details of the bill. The government and Legco members can move amendments to the bill in this stage. Every amendment will be decided by vote by the whole Legco. After amendment and debate, the Third Reading (三讀) is the final decision. The passed bill will then be sent to the Chief Executive for signature into law. (2) Financial Control -- the "power of the purse" Compared to other powers, the Hong Kong Legco holds more power in financial control, especially with regard to controlling government expenditure. The budget The annual budget of the govt. must be passed by the Legco. The budget is proposed to the Legco in the form of the Appropriations Bill (撥款條例草案) and the Revenue Bill (收入條例草案), which means the voting procedures of the budget follow those of bills. The expenditure part, in the form of Draft Estimates of Expenditure (開支預算), will be examined in detail by special sessions of Finance Committee. After the meetings, the FC will give a report to the whole council. The budget debate takes place two weeks after announcement of the budget, when the whole Legco debates and votes on the Appropriations Bill. Legco members can move amendments to the bill, but the amendments can only cut expenses but not increase expenses. The decision on the Revenue Bill gives members the chance to approve or reject fee increases or new taxes. The members can only vote to reduce revenue but not increase revenue. The Committees All appropriations (撥款) must be approved by the Finance Committee (FC) (財 3 Spring 2004 L3 務委員會). The FC was composed of all unofficial members. After 1985, the members will always scrutinize the submitted proposals carefully. If a vote-down is in order the proposal may be withdrawn by the government, and then revised and resubmitted (e.g., bird flu compensation). The FC cannot vote to increase expenditure, but can only reject, approve or reduce it. It only discusses expenditure, but not how revenue was raised. Every year the Director of Audit (審計署長) releases audit reports on how various govt departments are spending money, focusing on inefficiencies, wastage and value for money problems. The report would be passed to the Public Accounts Committee (政府帳目委員會) (PAC) to investigate into the problems and make suggestions for improvement (e.g., HKUST case in 1991). (3) Controlling the Government – Means of influencing government policy and controlling the government (a) Motion debate (動議辯論)-- A member raises a motion, fellow members debate on it, and then vote on it. The motion has no binding power on the government, only meant to show the mainstream opinion of the Legco members. E.g., in 1996, "This Council urges the Chinese government to release Wang Dan.(王丹)" (b) Questions (質詢)-- members may ask the government for information, make suggestions, press for action or criticize government policy. The question and reply can be both oral and written. Members can take the chance to question government officials on a particular policy or event. (c) The panels (事務委員會) are committees on specific policy areas (e.g., the Welfare Services Panel, the Constitutional Affairs Panel, the Education Panel). They can ask government officials to present and explain policy in front of the panel, where they will face questions and pressures from members. The panels do not have power to change government policy or bills. (d) Private Members' bills (私人條例草案) allow Legco members to put forward alternative policies. Members can draft their own bills, which may be on policies that the government will not adopt, and then put it on Legco agenda. (E.g., Protection of Harbor Bill 1997)(保護海港條例). One constraint is that private 4 Spring 2004 L3 members' bills must not entail government expenses. It was an effective means for the Legco to put pressure on government policy in 1991-97. (e) Under the Power and Privileges Ordinance (權力及特權條例), the Legco can conduct investigations into any matter (e.g., a scandal) and demand government officials to appear in a hearing to explain about public affairs. For example, the opening of the new Airport, SARS, etc.. (f) Redress Information System (RIS)—before the introduction of directly-elected members, the Office of Members of Executive and Legislative Councilors (OMELCO) (行政立法兩局議員辦事處) played an important role in channeling public opinion and receiving complaints about the government. The current RIS will handle complaints, listen to opinion from the public, or provide assistance. The complaints can also be referred to the Ombudsman (申訴專員) or the panels to follow up. (D) New Provisions in the Basic Law – Changes after 1997 Article 73 (9): The Legco did not have power to impeach (彈劾) any government officials before 1997. After 1997, it could impeach the CE by a 2/3 majority, if: (a) 1/4 of the Legco members move a motion, accusing the CE of committing serious illegality (嚴重違法) or abuse of office (瀆職) and does not resign; and (b) if Legco agrees to hold an investigation (i.e., they pass the above motion), the Legco can appoint an investigation committee headed by the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal; and (c) the CE was found guilty by the investigation committee; and (d) the Legco passed by a 2/3 majority a motion of impeachment. (e) After the Legco has passed the motion of impeachment, the decision should be reported to the Central government. The ultimate decision to fire the CE lies with the Central Government. Article 74: Legco members can raise their own private members’ bills (議員條例 草案), if the bill is not related to: (a) public expenditure; (b) the political structure; (c) the operation of the government. If a private members’ bill is related to government policy, it must get the written approval of the Chief Executive before it can be presented to the Legco. 5 Spring 2004 L3 (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) (g) A Legco member can lose his/her seat if: (Article 79) Failure to discharge his or her duties, as a result of serious illness or other reasons; Absent from meetings for three consecutive months without valid reason and without consent of the Legco President; Loses his/her status as permanent resident of Hong Kong; Becomes a civil servant; Become bankrupt or fails to comply with a court order to repay debts; Convicted for a criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment for one month or more, within or outside HK, and is passed by a 2/3 majority of the Legco to relieve of his/her duty; Censured by 2/3 majority of the Legco for misbehavior (行為不檢) or breach of oath (違反誓言) Annex 2 –Voting by groups (分組點票) All government bills only need a simple majority to pass the Legco; All private members’ bills, motions and bill amendments moved by Legco members must be voted and passed by more than half of the members of both groups. One group is the members elected from functional constituencies. The other group is the members from direct election and Election Committee. This means that a small group of about 15 councilors can veto any private proposals. It is possible that a majority of the members support the motion, but it can still be defeated. It thus takes an overwhelming majority in the Legco to pass any motion. Table The Composition of Legislative Council, 1843 to 2003 Year Official Unofficial Elected Total /Appointed EC FC Direct Elected 1843 4 0 0 0 0 4 1850 4 2 0 0 0 6 6 Spring 2004 L3 1896 8 6 0 0 0 14 1966 13 13 0 0 0 26 1983 29 29 0 0 0 58 1984 29 32 0 0 0 61 1985 11 22 12 12 0 57 1988 11 22 12 14 0 59 1991 3 17 0 21 18 59 1995 0 0 10 30 20 60 1998 0 0 10 30 20 60 2000 0 0 6 30 24 60 2004 0 0 0 30 30 30 7 ...
View Full Document

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

Ask a homework question - tutors are online