Following is a question by the Hon Lau Wong-fat and a reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (December 3):
Regarding litigations arising from the acquisition of private land by the Government, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the number of litigations instituted in the past five years as a result of the Government's failure to reach an agreement with owners of private land on compensation for the resumption or lease of private land, as well as the respective numbers of those cases in which the Government lost and lodged an appeal;
(b) of the total amount of litigation fees paid from public money for such cases in the past five years; and
(c) whether it has required the departments concerned to review if the cases in which judgement was given against the Government involved any mistakes on the part of government officials, and if such officials have to be held responsible; if the departments concerned have been required to do so, of the details of the review results; if not, the reasons for that?
My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:
(a) If Government needs to resume private land or to create rights of temporary occupation over private land for public projects, compensation is payable to affected persons who are entitled to compensation in accordance with the provisions of the relevant ordinances. If the affected persons are not satisfied with Government's offer of compensation, they can refer their cases to the Lands Tribunal for determination. In the past five years, the claimants accept Government's offer in the majority of cases.
During that period, about 8,000 private lots were resumed and rights of temporary occupations created over 270 private lots. Among these, only 245 cases had been referred to the Lands Tribunal for determination. Of these 245 cases, 107 were either settled or discontinued prior to the commencement of the Lands Tribunal hearing, and 38 cases had been heard with judgments delivered. The remaining 100 cases are awaiting hearing.
Of the 38 cases mentioned above where Lands Tribunal judgments have been delivered, 14 cases were in favour of the Government and 24 cases in favour of the claimants .
Among these 24 cases, Government appealed in nine cases. Out of these, one case was dismissed by consent and Government ultimately won two cases in the Court of Final Appeal. The other six appeals are pending determination.
(b) The total amount of litigation fees paid from public money for such cases in the past five years amounts to $20.3 million.
(c) In handling compensation claims, Government officers concerned act with due diligence and in accordance with the provisions of the relevant ordinances, the established procedures and their professional/technical knowledge. They have the duty to safeguarding the proper use of public monies. There is no reason to doubt individual officers' integrity and conduct in handling such claims. Hence, we do not think that they should be held responsible for any discrepancies in the claim cases.
Notwithstanding the above, the judgments handed down by the Lands Tribunal and higher courts are followed up by the Administration. Where appropriate, the fairness and adequacy of the relevant policy, procedures and practices are reviewed in the light of the court judgments.
Ends/Wednesday, December 3, 2003