By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
President of the Legislative Assembly (AL) Lau Cheok Va has suggested the establishment of a legislative planning and coordination system, in order to increase the quality of draft laws and allow the legislature to properly make use of its resources.
He met the reporters yesterday to summarise the work of the AL over the past year.
Lau, who has been a lawmaker since 1984 and was the AL vice-president from 1999 to 2009, said that a legislative planning and strong legislative coordination is “vital” to “respond to social development needs, complement with the governance, tackle major livelihood issues and raise the quality of legislation”.
He disclosed that over the past year the legislative workload was “imbalance – in the beginning the AL was very relaxed and towards the end of the term they had to work with tight schedules”.
He referred to June 28 when the Government submitted eight bills to the legislature at once for deliberation, not long before the lawmakers were to go on their summer break starting August 16.
The bills included six of the career regimes of medical personnel, one of the career regime of public school teachers and also one about the judicial aid to civil servants.
Lau said since the revision of the seven career regimes was drawing close to the three-year deadline, it was necessary for the legislature to work on the bills before it closed for the summer holiday. Yet, the judicial aid bill has no time restriction and thus he said that the Government should not have delivered it to them so close to mid-August.
The short time frame available for the lawmakers to finish discussions and to pass the bills, according to the AL president, made the legislature “fail to make use of its legislative, financial and human resources effectively”.
Since a legislative election is held every four years, Lau said a legislative planning should be made for the corresponding period, while a sub-planning also has to be prepared annually.
“For a long period of time, the Government departments have been working independently and lacking coordination when drafting bills, which were not high in quality,” Lau told reporters.
In order to improve the situation, aside from a legislative planning, he said a legislative coordination mechanism is also essential.
Of which, he suggested the formation of a new entity which has the authority to review all draft laws prepared by different public departments and has the power to draw up the legislative planning.
Meanwhile, Lau admitted that the legislature was in a “passive status” when deliberating the six medical personnel bills, adding the lawmakers did not have enough time to work on them.
However, Lau denied that local people’s interests were damaged.
“The lawmakers could still do a good job [in discussing the bills] but just that we needed to hold many meetings under a very tight schedule”.
On the other hand, Lau said there were times when Government officials did not give an answer in accordance to lawmakers’ questions, but added that “the officials did answer the questions, and then it’s a matter of whether the lawmakers are satisfied with the answers”.
The AL president in the meantime said that he believed more debates should be held at the legislature concerning major issues that arouse the public’s concern.
During the past year, 17 bills were presented to the legislature and 15 of them were passed.