Ir Dr The Hon Raymond Ho Chung-tai
Projects approved by the Public Works Subcommittee (PWSC)
The PWSC, of which I am Chairman, approved 17 funding applications with estimated costs totalling HK$29.09 billion at its four meetings held in December 2010 and January 2011. Fitting-out works for government facilities at the new air cargo terminal, Liangtang/Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point and associated works, stage four of the replacement and rehabilitation of water mains, district cooling system at the Kai Tak development, the advance works for Shatin to Central Link, essential public infrastructure works for Kwun Tong Line Extension and South Island Line (East) are amongst the approved projects. The estimated costs for the projects approved to date for the current legislative year is HK$30 billion.
Prior to their approval by the PWSC, the funding applications for the three railway projects mentioned above were discussed at two special meetings of the Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways (Subcommittee) held in December 2010 and January 2011. At its meeting held on 21 January 2011, the Subcommittee also discussed the retrofitting of automatic platform gates (APGs) at railway stations, facilities and design of MTR train compartments. The MTR Corporation Ltd (MTRCL) conducted a trial on the mechanical gap fill (MGF) system at Lo Wu Station. The unsatisfactory outcome of the trial has confirmed my doubt on the system expressed in 2008 when it was proposed. Besides, the MTRCL has also identified some technical difficulties if APGs were to be retrofitted on the East Rail Line (EAL). The MTRCL has come to the view that both the signalling system and the train fleet would have to be replaced to resolve all these problems. At the same meeting, the Hon Wong Sing-chi moved a motion severely criticising and condemning the MTRCL's indifference to passenger safety. I was the only member voting against the motion.
Veto of Hong Kong's bid for 2023 Asian Games
The government's request for funds for hosting the captioned event was defeated at the 14 January 2011 Finance Committee meeting by a large margin. The voting result though not unexpected has disappointed me and members of Professional Forum as we had given our full support to the government's proposal to bid for the 2023 event. It is our belief that hosting the Games will bring long-term benefits to Hong Kong. Upgrading sporting venues and improving infrastructure facilities for hosting the event will create job opportunities, spur economic activities and strengthen Hong Kong's status as Asian World's City. In addition, hosting the Games will promote a sports culture and a healthy lifestyle in Hong Kong. Built to meet international standards, upgraded sporting facilities and venues will benefit both the athletes and the people of Hong Kong. It was most unfortunate that other LegCo members did not share the same view.
Post-service/office employment appointments of senior civil servants and politically appointed officials
There are growing public concerns about the post-service/office employment arrangements of senior civil servants and politically appointed officials. Following the release of the Report of the Select Committee to Inquire into Matters Relating to the Post-service Works for Mr Leung Chin-man, a motion debate on the subject was held at the 15 December 2010 LegCo meeting. I commented in the debate that the Select Committee's investigation had not identified any unequivocal evidence to suggest that benefits in return were involved between Mr Leung Chin-man and New World Development Co Ltd in the Hunghom Peninsula case. Nonetheless, the Committee has indicated in the report that it agreed with the view expressed by Mr Michael Suen, Former Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, at the hearing that there were grounds for the public suspicion that Mr Leung's taking up of the employment with New World China Land Ltd was a deferred benefit. But the accusation has not been substantiated by evidence. In my opinion, the negligence of the government in vetting Mr Leung's application has to be blamed. The approval given by the government to Mr Leung's post-retirement appointment despite his involvement in Hunghom Peninsula case indicated that the government was totally insensitive to the gravity of the matter. The case highlighted the need for the government to review the vetting procedures of post-service work applications of senior civil servants.
Another motion was moved on post-office employment arrangement for politically appointed officials at the sitting on 12 January 2011. Under the present post-office employment arrangement for politically appointed officials, they are only required, for one year, to seek the advice of an advisory committee. However, they are not obliged to take this advice. Speaking on the motion, I urged the government to take steps to address the public concerns on the lax requirement of the present arrangement. However, the rules for taking post-office employment arrangements must not be too strict as they will discourage quality people from joining the government. A balance must be struck in this respect.
Proposal on broadening the electorate base of Engineering and Information Technology Functional Constituencies
In 2005, with the endorsement of the Council of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE), I made a proposal on including Graduate Members and Associate Members of the HKIE in the Engineering Functional Constituency electorate and Associate Members in the IT Functional Constituency electorate respectively. Unfortunately, it did not fit in with the scope of the amendments proposed by the government at that time. Recently, I wrote to Mr Stephen Lam, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, asking him to revisit the subject. Without adopting my proposal, Mr Lam indicated in his reply that there should be no substantial changes to the traditional functional constituencies, which is the government's general policy position in the light of the new election arrangement in 2012 LegCo election. Without giving up, I wrote to the Chairmen of both Associate Members Committee and Young Members Committee of the HKIE to bring their attention to the forthcoming meeting of the Bills Committee on Chief Executive Election (Amendment) Bill 2010 and Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 2010, of which I am a member. The meeting on 15 January 2011 was to receive views from deputations and individuals on the Bill.
Bidding farewell to Mr Szeto Wah
I together with the other members of Professional Forum including the Hon Patrick Lau, the Hon Abraham Shek and the Hon Priscilla Leung, attended the funeral service of Mr Szeto Wah to pay our respects to him.
Ir Dr The Hon Raymond Ho Chung-tai