Following is a question by the Hon Audrey Eu and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (May 2):
Since his election as the fourth-term Chief Executive (CE), the CE-elect has openly expressed his views on the governance of the present Government on several occasions, while the incumbent CE has indicated that he will "work with full dedication until the last second of office". The situation has been criticised by the public as leading to the situations of "two CEs co-existing in one single Special Administrative Region", "the CE-elect doing the work of the present Government" and "the present Government being turned into a lame duck administration". In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) given that the Food and Health Bureau indicated on April 6 this year that it had reached a consensus with private hospitals on the quota for admission of pregnant mainland women whose spouses are not permanent residents of Hong Kong (doubly non-permanent resident pregnant women) giving birth in Hong Kong in 2013, and before the relevant details are announced, the CE-elect stated in public on April 16 that a "zero quota" should be set for private hospitals in 2013, and that children born locally to doubly non-permanent resident pregnant women would not be guaranteed the Hong Kong permanent resident status, whether the authorities have assessed if it is ultra vires for the CE-elect to make open comments on the governance of the present Government, and if what he said has caused confusion to civil servants; if an assessment has been made, of the details, if not, the reasons for that; whether the Government has followed up the aforesaid situation in order to restore the morale of civil servants; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(b) given that it has been reported that the Environment Bureau intended to seek funding approval from this Council to construct an incinerator for treating solid waste, yet the CE-elect cited it as an example to illustrate the importance of the political stratagem of principal officials under the accountability system, whether the authorities have assessed if the related remarks will arouse a feeling among civil servants that the present Government was implicitly satirised and, as a consequence, they are unable to do as well as they would wish at work; if an assessment has been made, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether the Government has followed up the aforesaid situation in order to restore the morale of civil servants; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(c) given that it was proposed in the election platform of the CE-elect that the number of policy bureaux should be changed from 12 to 14 and two posts of deputy secretary be created to coordinate inter-departmental policies, but the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs has indicated that the present Government has not received any instruction to carry out related work, and I have learnt that some civil servants are worried that a substantial re-organisation of policy bureaux will lead to a multi-layered governing structure and reduced efficiency of governance, whether the Government has followed up the aforesaid situation in order to restore the morale of civil servants; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The current-term Government and the next-term Government share the same objective, i.e. to serve the public. In the remaining term of office, one of the important tasks of the current-term Government is to ensure a smooth transition in all areas and to facilitate the Chief Executive (CE)-Elect to make preparations for the work of the new-term Government, with a view to achieving a seamless transition.
The Administration wishes to reiterate that policy formation and execution is under the purview of the current-term Government until June 30, while the next term Government will take up the responsibility with effect from July 1. The current-term Government will seek the views of the CE-Elect on the implementation of any important new policy measure which goes beyond the term of the current-term Government, with a view to ensuring a smooth transition of policies and the least disruption to public services.
The CE's Office will continue to maintain close liaison with the CE-Elect’s Office to coordinate the work relating to transition of government.
Under the Civil Service Code, civil servants are required to give their best in serving the CE and the Government of the day. In a letter issued to all civil servants on March 26 this year, the CE indicates that the current-term Government will ensure the effectiveness of its governance until July 1 and will give its full support for the transition between two terms of governments. The civil service will uphold its fine traditions to support the work of the current-term Government with dedication, loyalty and professionalism. After July 1, the civil service will also make every effort to support the fourth-term CE and the new-term Government in implementing the policy programmes.
Our replies to the three specific questions raised by the Honourable Audrey Eu are as follows:
(a) The HKSAR Government is gravely concerned about the issue of non-local pregnant women giving birth in Hong Kong and has been making every effort to address this issue. It is our established policy to ensure that local pregnant women are accorded priority and are provided with quality service. We will only consider making obstetric services available to non-local pregnant women when we have spare service capacity. Last year, we put forward and implemented a number of measures to further control the number of non-local pregnant women giving birth in Hong Kong. These include capping the delivery places for non-local women in 2012 at the level of 35,000.
As for delivery bookings by non-local pregnant women in Hong Kong in 2013, we had been holding discussions with private hospitals, although a consensus had yet to be arrived at. Since this issue will be carried forward to the next term Government, we have also maintained communication with the CE-Elect.
The CE-Elect has advised that, as promised in his election manifesto in 2013, private hospitals should cease making delivery appointments for non-local pregnant women whose spouses are not Hong Kong residents before we conduct an overall assessment of the impact their giving birth in Hong Kong may have on our social services, such as medical, maternal and child care, and education services. We appreciate and respect the views of the CE-Elect. Private hospitals have unanimously agreed to cease making delivery appointments for non-local pregnant women whose spouses are not Hong Kong residents in 2013.
(b) Hong Kong faces an imminent waste management problem which has to be dealt with through a three-pronged strategy including waste reduction and recycling, introduction of modern waste treatment facilities, and timely extension of landfills. Under this three-pronged waste management strategy, the Environment Bureau has been maintaining a dialogue with the Legislative Council (LegCo) and the wider community over the past year. The waste management strategies as proposed by the CE-Elect in his election platform are consistent with our current policy objectives. The Government has also communicated with the CE-Elect on this issue. Due to the objection of the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs, the current administration could not proceed further with the procedures in seeking funding approval for the introduction of Integrated Waste Management Facilities Phase 1 and the extension of the three strategic landfills. Yet, we will continue to progressively implement various on-going waste reduction initiatives.
(c) The CE has indicated publicly on April 20 that the present Government will fully cooperate with the CE-Elect in restructuring the next-term Government.
In this connection, the Government has set up a working group under the supervision of the Chief Secretary for Administration, and headed by the Permanent Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs. Members include representatives of the Department of Justice, Civil Service Bureau, Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, Administration Wing and relevant policy bureaux and departments. The working group will provide technical and procedural support, which include:
(i) amendment of relevant legislation;
(ii) creation of posts and application for funding; and
(iii) arrangement of office accommodation for the relevant bureau and departments after the re-organisation of the Government Secretariat.
Ends/Wednesday, May 2, 2012