LCQ20: The legislature had the function of monitoring the executive authorities
Following is a question by Hon Leung Yiu-chung and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (February 15):
When attending a radio programme on the 5th of this month, the Chief Executive (CE) said that while it was provided in the Basic Law that the legislature had the function of monitoring the executive authorities, he "hoped that its monitoring would not overstep the line and become a case of acting primarily out of political rather than practical considerations". In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the reasons for the CE making the above remarks; and
(b) whether there have been any specific examples showing that the Legislative Council (LegCo), in monitoring the operation of the Government, has acted ultra vires and primarily out of political considerations; if not, whether it will review if the above remarks were rash and would harm the relationship between the legislature and the executive authorities, and whether the CE will apologise to the LegCo for having made such remarks?
According to the design of the Basic Law, the political structure implemented in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is an executive-led system. The executive authorities and the legislature have their respective functions. They should both complement, and keep a check and balance on, each other’s functions.
The political structure of the HKSAR is an executive-led system headed by the CE, as realised in the following provisions of the Basic Law:
(a) The CE shall be the head of the HKSAR (Article 43 of the Basic Law).
(b) The CE is at the same time the head of the HKSAR Government (that is, the executive authorities) (Article 60 of the Basic Law).
(c) The CE is responsible for the implementation of the Basic Law (Article 48 of the Basic Law).
(d) The CE leads the government of the Region; decides on government policies; issues executive orders; nominates and reports to the Central People’s Government (CPG) for the appointment of principal officials and recommends to the CPG the removal of them; appoints or removes judges of the courts at all levels and holders of public office in accordance with legal procedures; and conducts, on behalf of the HKSAR, external affairs and other affairs as authorised by the Central Authorities (Article 48 of the Basic Law).
(e) The CE leads the HKSAR Government to exercise relevant powers and functions, which include formulating and implementing policies; conducting administrative affairs; drawing up and introducing budgets; drafting and introducing bills, motions and subordinate legislation (Article 62 of the Basic Law).
(f) The land and natural resources within the HKSAR shall be state property. The Government of the HKSAR shall be responsible for their management, use and development and for their lease or grant to individuals, legal persons or organisations for use or development. The revenues derived therefrom shall be exclusively at the disposal of the government of the Region (Article 7 of the Basic Law).
(g) The roles played by the CE in the legislative process include the signing of bills and the promulgation of laws (Articles 48 and 76 of the Basic Law) and are set out in other relevant provisions (Articles 49, 50 and 51 of the Basic Law).
(h) Members of the LegCo may not introduce bills relating to public expenditure or political structure or the operation of the government. The written consent of the CE shall be required before bills relating to government policies are introduced by members (Article 74 of the Basic Law).
The powers and functions of the Legislative Council are clearly stipulated in Article 73 of the Basic Law: to enact, amend or repeal laws in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law and legal procedures; to examine and approve budgets introduced by the government; to approve taxation and public expenditure; to receive and debate the policy addresses of the CE; to raise questions on the work of the government; to debate any issue concerning public interests; to endorse the appointment and removal of the judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Court; to receive and handle complaints from Hong Kong residents; to pass a motion of impeachment regarding charges against the CE for serious breach of law or dereliction of duty when he or she refuses to resign; and to summon, as required when exercising the above-mentioned powers and functions, persons concerned to testify or give evidence.
On the other hand, Article 64 of the Basic Law stipulates that the Government of the HKSAR must abide by the law and be accountable to the LegCo of the Region: it shall implement laws passed by the Council and already in force; it shall present regular policy addresses to the Council; it shall answer questions raised by members of the Council; and it shall obtain approval from the Council for taxation and public expenditure.
According to the above Basic Law provisions, whilst the executive authorities and the legislature have their respective functions and powers, they should both complement, as well as keep a check and balance on, each other’s functions. The bills and budgets proposed by the Government of the HKSAR must be examined and approved by the LegCo before they are implemented. The executive and the legislature play their respective roles. The relationship between the executive and the legislature has been clearly set out in the 2005-06 Policy Address announced by the CE in October last year. The remarks made by the CE on the radio programme reaffirmed the longstanding position of the Government that we hoped that the executive and legislature could cooperate closely and deal with issues of public concern together in a practical and pragmatic manner.
Ends/Wednesday, February 15, 2006