LCQ14: Review and consultation on DCs' functions and structure
Following is a question by Hon Frederick Fung and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (February 22):
In his policy address delivered in October 2005, the Chief Executive said that a comprehensive review and consultation on the functions and structure of District Councils ("DCs") would commence in the first quarter of this year, and the Government would continue to make available more channels for the public to participate in the management of district affairs. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the definite time for commencing the review, as well as the specific arrangements and timetables for the entire review and the implementation of the review findings;
(b) of the details of the coverage of the comprehensive review, whether it will include abolishing appointed seats in DCs, strengthening the role of DCs in district affairs, transferring certain functions of the two former municipal councils to DCs and making DCs an effective channel for the cultivation of political talents; if not, the reasons for that; and
(c) of the form of conducting the public consultation, and whether public opinion polls will be conducted before or during the consultation; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
(a) The working group set up jointly by the Home Affairs Bureau and the Constitutional Affairs Bureau is making preparations for the review on the role, functions and composition of District Councils (DCs). We expect that public consultation on the review will commence in the first half of this year. The consultation document will set out issues and proposals relating to the review for discussion by the public. We will take into full account the views collected during the consultation period before deciding on the way forward, including whether the relevant proposals require adjustment, the implementation details and timetable, etc.
(b) In his Policy Address of 2005-06, the Chief Executive announced that DCs would be allowed to participate in the management of district facilities, such as libraries, community halls, leisure grounds, sports venues and swimming pools, within the limits of the framework of the existing statutory provisions and resources allocations. The executive departments will discuss with DCs the management plans of district facilities, and will take into account the views of DC members in managing the facilities. The consultation document to be published later will provide further details of the proposal for discussion by the public. The Government will also set out some other issues relating to the role, functions and composition of DCs in the consultation document.
On the whole, our present thinking is to examine how the role and functions of DCs can be strengthened within the existing legal framework. Further, we also have to ensure that the composition of DCs will be able to continue to reflect the views of different sectors of the community.
(c) We expect that a public consultation document will be issued in the first half of this year to seek the views of the public regarding the role, functions and composition of DCs. Upon the commencement of the public consultation, we will consult the Legislative Council (LegCo), DCs and the public. Details of the arrangements will be announced when the consultation document is published.
We have no plan to conduct public opinion polls before the issue of the public consultation document. However, we have all along been listening to the views of the community on the DC review through different channels. For example, the Home Affairs Department has maintained communication with DCs on this subject. We also had an opportunity to listen to the views of DC members and members of the community on the review at the special meetings of the LegCo Panel on Constitutional Affairs held on February 18, 2006. Further, we had discussion with LegCo Members on this subject at the meeting of the LegCo Panel on Constitutional Affairs held on February 20, 2006. We will consider carefully all the views we have received. Upon the commencement of formal public consultation, we will collect views through various channels. At the present stage, we will not rule out any appropriate means of collecting public views to facilitate further follow-up.
Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2006