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SCMA speaks to the media after Bills Committee Meeting

     Following is the transcript of remarks (English portion) made by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, to the media after Bills Committee on Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 2011 meeting at the Legislative Council this morning (July 4):

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I am very grateful to Members of the Bills Committee for completing the scrutiny of the Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 2011 this morning, and for considering the additional Committee Stage Amendment which the Administration has put forth.

     This morning, I recognised and I observed that there is overall consensus among different political parties and independent Legislative Councillors that the current loophole must be plugged. This loophole is presented in this form - last year, we had five Legislative Councillors representing two political parties resigning mid-term and instigating an unnecessary series of by-elections to organise the so-called "referendum". This led to unnecessary public expenditure. The community has strong views about this and this loophole has to be plugged.

     However, there are various additional suggestions and proposals put forth today as to how we can plug this loophole. Firstly, there is a proposal from certain political parties and independent members that we should exclude from the Amendment Bill situations whereby vacancies arise naturally, for example, the death or serious illness of the sitting member. Secondly, there is a proposal, once again, that we should restrict a member who has resigned from standing in by-elections for the remainder of the Legislative Council term. Thirdly, there are also suggestions and enquiries as to whether there is some extra time in which the Government can listen further to public views. These specific suggestions do not coincide with the policies already approved by the Executive Council. Nonetheless, when I return to the Central Government Offices, I shall report these additional proposals to the Chief Executive and the Chief Secretary for Administration.

     As things stand, the scrutiny of the Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 2011 has been completed. Eventually it will be for the Legislative Council to determine whether this set of legislative proposals should be supported. But one thing is clear: this loophole has to be plugged, and we must not allow unnecessary by-elections to continue to disrupt the work of the Legislative Council and to disrupt the community and the rights of Hong Kong.

Reporter: Stephen, you heard Regina Ip say "what's the rush?" Mr (Paul) Tse had said that if there is no further delay, he would vote against. So, right now, what is the state of play? What is the chance that you will go beyond July 13 and give people more chance, especially in the light of the march on July 1?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: Well, we respect community opinion, including opinion expressed during the latest demonstration and procession. In light of the community sentiments since this series of by-elections were held in 2010, we do believe that we need to take things forward and plug this loophole by enacting the Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 2011.

Reporter: You said you have discussed the possibility of allowing extra time for this Bill, so will you or will you not be pushing it through on July 13?

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: What I would say is that as the scrutiny of the Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill has been completed, it would be for the Legislative Council to determine eventually whether to support this or not. That's all I can say for the time being. I have already expressed my views very clearly during the Bills Committee.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Monday, July 4, 2011