I rise to move the motion on the Agenda to amend the Building (Minor Works) (Fees) Regulation.
First of all, I would like to thank the Honourable Chan Kin-por, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Building (Minor Works) (Fees) Regulation, and the other nine members of the Subcommittee, who have scrutinised and discussed the content of the Regulation in detail and given us much useful advice. The Subcommittee has also invited deputations from the industry to join the discussion and make suggestions. Having thoroughly considered the comments of the Subcommittee, the Administration proposes to amend the Fees Regulation concerned in order to further improve the relevant provisions.
The Building (Minor Works) (Fees) Regulation is among the last batch of subsidiary legislation to be introduced under the legislative proposal for the implementation of the minor works control system. This Regulation is a technical one which aims to stipulate the level of fees for registrations and relevant applications for registered minor works contractors stipulated under the Building (Minor Works) Regulation passed in May this year.
The proposed fee structure is determined according to the Administration's established principle of full cost-recovery and with reference to the existing arrangement for registered general building contractors stipulated in the Building (Administration) Regulations.
The Subcommittee raised concern over the possible financial burden on minor works practitioners, in particular the small-scale class III individual practitioners, for registration. Members made particular suggestions that the Administration should consider further assisting the registration of such small-scale practitioners to address the need of the industry and to enable the smooth implementation of the new system. We accept the comments of the Subcommittee and propose relevant amendments to further improve the arrangements on charging of fees.
Under the Building (Minor Works) Regulation, a relatively more convenient review mechanism was instituted in response to the request of the Subcommittee during the scrutiny period. An unsuccessful applicant may make a request to the Buildings Department for referring the application concerned to another Registration Committee to scrutinise the case again. The Subcommittee on Building (Minor Works) (Fees) Regulation was of the view that minor works practitioners are all small-scale operators. The review mechanism should facilitate the users as much as possible. With a view to further improving the review mechanism, we propose that amendments should be made to sections 8, 17 and 21 of the Regulation by including a new provision in each section stipulating that if the Building Authority substitutes the original decision to which the request for review relates with another decision, the Authority must refund the fee paid in respect of the request.
The Subcommittee also pointed out that the Administration should pay attention to the fact that the registration fee for practitioners with formal qualifications is only $155, whilst the fee for those who depend solely on their experience is $305. The latter are mostly practitioners who have been working in the industry for years and are of relatively older age. The difference of fees between the two groups may not be conducive to the registration of these experienced elderly practitioners as contractors.
The policy objective of the Administration is to encourage and facilitate as many practitioners as possible to register under the new minor works control system upon its implementation. In view of this, we propose to introduce a limited "early bird" concession for those practitioners without any formal qualifications to encourage them to register. Under this administrative measure, during the first 12 months of the registration period, the Buildings Department will provide a subsidy of $150 to each applicant whose first-time application of any minor works item solely relies on his/her experience. In other words, such an applicant will only need to pay $155 for registration, which will be the same as those applying in accordance with qualifications. We trust that the above proposal will facilitate the registration of practitioners without formal qualifications and encourage them to come forward to submit applications early.
The minor works control system will be an economical and convenient statutory channel for members of the public to carry out small-scale building works. The registration system would also enhance the standard of the industry and enhance the overall level of building safety in Hong Kong.
If the Building (Minor Works) (Fees) Regulation is passed, we will commence the registration of minor works contractors as soon as possible, and then fully implement the minor works control system. The Buildings Department is proactively preparing for the publicity and administrative work, including a large-scale public education programme to promote the system to both the general public and the industry. The Department will also continue to maintain close liaison with the industry and minor works practitioners to provide necessary assistance and support during the registration stage and upon the implementation of the system.
The Building (Minor Works) (Fees) Regulation has been scrutinised in detail by the Subcommittee, and we have adopted comments of the Subcommittee and made corresponding amendments. Such amendments are supported by the Subcommittee. We hope Members would support the Building (Minor Works) (Fees) Regulation, so that the minor works control system could be implemented as early as possible.
I move that the Resolution be passed. Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Issued at HKT 14:25