LC: Statement by SCMA on Report on Further Development of the Political Appointment System

    Following is the English translation of the statement by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, at the Legislative Council this afternoon (October 17) on the release of the Report on Further Development of the Political Appointment System:

Madam President,

     The Chief Executive (CE) has indicated in the Policy Address his hope that two additional tiers of political appointment positions can be created as soon as possible. In this regard, the Government will publish the Report on Further Development of the Political Appointment System later today to set out our way forward on implementing the proposals.

Public consultation and views

     In July, 2006, we issued a consultation document proposing the creation of two additional layers of political appointment positions, namely Deputy Directors of Bureau and Assistants to Directors of Bureau. During the four-month public consultation period, more than 200 written submissions were received. We also reached out to different sectors of the community to gauge their views on the proposals. The report sets out the way forward after careful consideration of these views. The submissions received during the consultation period are published in an Appendix to the Report.

     Generally speaking, many respondents are supportive of the direction set out in the consultation document. More specifically, they share the need for further development of the Political Appointment System by creating two additional layers of political appointees. Their grounds for supporting the Government's proposals can be summarised as follows:

(a) firstly, the proposals can pave the way for further democratic development and facilitate the grooming of all-round talent in public affairs;

(b) secondly, the proposals will enable the Government to have a wider spectrum of expertise for better governance; and

(c) thirdly, the proposals will enhance the political capacity of the governing team in the pursuit of people-based and effective governance.

     There are, of course, some who hold views which are different from the above. However, in overall terms, the public views received indicate general support for the Government's proposals. Chapter 3 of the Report summarises the views put forth from both sides together with the Government's response.

     Madam President, let me briefly introduce the Government's recommendations in the report on the way forward to further develop the Political Appointment System.

Creation of new positions and their responsibilities

     The report recommends that one position of Deputy Director of Bureau and one position of Political Assistant to Director of Bureau should be provided for each policy bureau, except the Civil Service Bureau (CSB).

     We have refined the job description for the Deputy Directors of Bureau to underline the fact that they are expected to assist the Directors of Bureau in assuming a full range of political responsibilities, including the handling of Legco business. We have also strengthened the job description for the Political Assistants to make it clear that they will take up various aspects of political liaison work. The recommended job descriptions for these two new layers of political positions have been included in the report.

     We hope that the adjustments can delineate the roles and responsibilities between the political appointees and the civil service more clearly, which is supported by many of the views received. On the other side of the interface, no substantial changes are proposed to the job descriptions for Permanent Secretaries, Administrative Assistants and other directorate officers in the Government Secretariat. However, in time the roles of civil servants with respect to the conduct of policy research, and analysis and formulation of policy options will become more prominent after expansion of the Political Appointment System. We believe the strengthening of the political stream will place more demands on the civil service for policy analysis, information, advice and support. The new positions will not be created at the expense of the civil service establishment.

Appointment of the new appointees

     During the consultation period, we received some views regarding the arrangement for appointing Deputy Directors of Bureau and Political Assistants. After taking into account these views, we recommend that the CE should chair an appointment committee to consider nominations and appointments of potential candidates to fill the new political positions, and to assess and consider the suitability of these candidates for the positions. The appointment committee will comprise the Secretaries of Department, the relevant Directors of Bureau and the Director of the Chief Executive's Office.

     With the establishment of the appointment committee, we recommend that both Deputy Directors of Bureau and Political Assistants should be appointed and removed by the CE on the advice of the appointment committee.

     We hope that people with political party, academic, professional, business, civil service and other backgrounds can serve in the new political positions. We will not set aside any quotas on appointees from any particular background. Of course, for appointees who are political party members, they will have to work in the overall interest of Hong Kong, rather than that of individual parties. For appointees who are selected from the body of serving civil servants, in line with arrangements for Secretaries of Department and Directors of Bureau, they will have to leave the civil service before taking up political appointments, so as to to ensure that we maintain an apolitical and professional civil service. In other words, there will be no "revolving door" arrangement.

Remuneration for the New Positions

     In respect of remuneration package, we recommend that for a Deputy Director of Bureau the level of remuneration should be pitched at a range equivalent to 65% to 75% of the remuneration package for a Director of Bureau. For a Political Assistant, we recommend that the level of remuneration should be pitched at a range equivalent to 35% to 55% of the remuneration package for a Director of Bureau.

     We need to ensure that public money is well spent, while offering a competitive remuneration package which can reflect the level of responsibility for these positions. We consider that the proposed ranges of remuneration are about right, and it is appropriate to set the remuneration at the respective ranges, so that the Government may offer remuneration commensurate with the experience of the candidates concerned.

Position of the Secretary for the Civil Service

     Regarding the position of the Secretary for the Civil Service (SCS), we consider that the existing arrangement is working well. The present arrangement, whereby the person filling the SCS position is drawn from the body of serving civil servants and not obligated to resign or retire from the civil service before taking up the position, should continue. He may return to the civil service at his original rank after leaving the office of the SCS if he has not yet reached the retirement age specified for civil servants.

Administrative Assistant and Press Secretary to Principal Officials

     We recommend that the current Administrative Assistant and Press Secretary posts in the private offices of the Principal Officials should both be filled by civil servants on posting. Persons filling these posts will need to have good knowledge about the Government operations and machinery for effective delivery of their work.

Private offices of the Secretaries of Department

     We also recommend that one position each of Political Assistant to Chief Secretary for Administration and Political Assistant to Financial Secretary should be created to strengthen the support to the Chief Secretary for Administration and Financial Secretary in undertaking political work. The two positions will both be at the rank of Political Assistant to Director of Bureau.

Code for Politically Appointed Officials

     We appreciate that the public expects the Government to put in place rules to govern the performance and behaviour of political appointees. In this regard, we recommend that the current "Code for Principal Officials under the Accountability System" should be adapted as the "Code for Officials under the Political Appointment System" and applied to all political appointees, so that they will be subject to the rules stipulated in the Code regarding declaration of interests, protection of official secrets, post-office employment, etc.

Financial Implications and Implementation

     The Government's recommendations entail creation of 11 positions at the rank of Deputy Director of Bureau and 13 at the rank of Political Assistant, plus some civil service posts providing administrative support. The additional financial implications are estimated to range from $50 million to $65 million per annum. We will seek the approval of the Legco Finance Committee for creation of the proposed positions. If necessary, these positions will be filled in phases. It is important that these new positions be filled by individuals of the right calibre.


     Madam President, the HKSAR Government hopes that we can provide the team of Principal Officials with stronger support in carrying out political work in the pursuit of people-based governance, and in leading an outstanding, permanent and politically neutral civil service to meet the objective of effective governance.

     On top of the above, we have a broader objective, which is to widen, and to groom, the pool of political talents, so as to broaden the avenues for those who wish to serve Hong Kong by pursuing a career in politics. We believe that the additional political appointments offer excellent opportunities to professional political talents to gain public administration experience, and that this is conducive to the grooming of political leaders for the Government. This is shared by many of the views we have received. As we see it, further development of the Political Appointment System will pave the way for implementation of universal suffrage for returning the CE and the candidate who wins can have sufficient room to nominate and appoint his team of Principal Officials and their deputies.

     We sincerely hope that Members will support the Government's implementation of the recommendations in the Report. Thank you, Madam President.

Ends/Wednesday, October 17, 2007