LCQ3: Functions and powers of executive and legislative authorities
Following is a question by Hon Martin Lee and an oral reply by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (March 1):
When attending a radio programme last 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 reply to a question last month on CE's above remarks, the Administration did not provide any specific example to show that this Council, in monitoring the Government's operation, had acted ultra vires and primarily out of political considerations. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council of:
(a) the specific meaning of the expression "overstep the line" used by CE; and
(b) the specific examples which show that the Legislative Council, in monitoring the Government's operation, has "overstepped the line" and gone beyond the functions conferred on it by the Basic Law?
As mentioned in our reply to a written question raised by the Honourable Leung Yiu-chung on February 15, the executive and legislative authorities have different responsibilities and powers. The two sides shall exercise their powers and perform their functions in accordance with the Basic Law. They should both complement, and keep a check and balance on, each other’s functions.
Under the Basic Law, the political structure of the HKSAR is an executive-led system headed by the CE. For example, in accordance with Articles 43 and 60 of the Basic Law, the CE is the head of the HKSAR, and the head of the HKSAR Government. Article 48 of the Basic Law stipulates that the CE is responsible for implementing the Basic Law, nominating and reporting Principal Officials to the Central People’s Government for appointment, and conducting external affairs as authorised by the Central Authorities on behalf of the HKSAR Government, amongst other things. Article 62 of the Basic Law provides that the HKSAR Government is responsible for drawing up budgets, and drafting bills, motions and subsidiary legislation.
Article 73 of the Basic Law stipulates 10 powers and functions of the Legislative Council, including the enactment and amendment of laws. Furthermore, Article 64 of the Basic Law provides that the HKSAR Government must abide by the law and be accountable to the Legislative Council: it shall implement laws passed by the Legislative Council and already in force; it shall present regular Policy Addresses to the Legislative Council; it shall answer questions raised by Members of the Legislative Council; and it shall obtain approval from the Legislative Council for taxation and public expenditure.
We note that in the past, individual Members of the Legislative Council have criticised the HKSAR Government for not going through the Legislative Council in respect of the disposal of land resources. There is no basis for this allegation. Article 7 of the Basic Law stipulates that the HKSAR Government is responsible for the management, use and development of land within the HKSAR. In discharging their duties, the CE and the HKSAR Government led by him will act in full compliance with the powers and responsibilities conferred upon them by the Basic Law and the laws of Hong Kong.
When the Chief Executive attended a radio programme earlier on, he sought to deliver a key message about the relationship between the executive and legislative authorities. He expressed the hope that the executive and legislative authorities would perform their functions in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law, and that the two sides would co-operate and deal with issues of public concern in a practical manner.
Ends/Wednesday, March 1, 2006