LCQ7: Operation of the Municipal Services Appeals Board
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     Following is a question by the Hon Tommy Cheung and a written reply by the Acting Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (November 4):

Question:

     Recently, I have received complaints from many members of the trade, pointing out that the requirements for vetting and approving new applications for liquor licences and applications for renewal of liquor licences (including restrictions on the operation conditions) by the Liquor Licensing Board ("LLB") were more stringent than those in the past.  Quite a number of applicants lodged appeals with the Municipal Services Appeals Board ("the Board") after they were informed of LLB's decisions, and the waiting time for hearings to be held on the relevant appeal cases increased substantially, and in some cases as long as several months, with the result that hearings were not even scheduled upon the expiry of the appellants' liquor licences.  Members of the trade have pointed out that the appeal mechanism concerned serves no real purpose, which causes operators to suffer losses and also adversely affects the business environment of the catering industry.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  of the number of appeals received by the Board regarding applications for liquor licences each year from January 2006 to June this year, as well as the average waiting time for hearings to be held on such cases;

(b)  of the existing manpower of the Board for handling such appeal cases, and whether it has assessed if the existing manpower is sufficient, so as to ensure that the relevant appeal cases can be completed within a reasonable period of time; and

(c)  whether the Board will formulate a performance pledge for the waiting time for hearings to be held on the appeal cases concerned; if not, of the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

(a)  The number of appeals received by the Municipal Services Appeals Board ("the MSAB") regarding applications for liquor licences each year from January 2006 to June this year, as well as the average waiting time for hearings to be held on such cases are as follows íV

                  2006     2007     2008     2009
                                        (up to June)

No. of appeals
received by the     21      27       24      22
MSAB regarding
applications for
liquor licences

Average waiting
time for hearings 77 days  102 days 97 days 100 days
to be held on the
appeals regarding
applications for
liquor licences

(b)  The MSAB currently comprises a Chairman, three Vice-chairmen and a panel of 74 members.  Each appeal will be heard by an Appeals Board comprising the Chairman or the Vice-chairman and two panel members.

     The Board Secretariat comprises a Board Secretary and shares three clerical staff with another appeals board.

     We have from time to time assessed the manpower of the MSAB.  We shall continue to closely monitor the caseload of the MSAB to see if it is necessary to increase the manpower and also the number of hearings in order to shorten the waiting time required for appeals to be heard.

(c)  There are statutory time limits governing the processing of appeals by the MSAB including provisions for the granting of extension of time.  The Secretariat will only be able to issue the Notice of Hearing upon receipt of all relevant documents subsequent to the lodging of the appeal.  Moreover, the date of a hearing also depends on whether the Appellant seeks an extension for submission of the appeal.

     For example, according to regulation 17(5) of the Dutiable Commodities (Liquor) Regulations, the applicant for the liquor licence may, within 28 days after the date of the notice given by the Liquor Licensing Board, appeal to the MSAB.  Nevertheless, the Appellant may apply in writing to the Chairman of the MSAB to extend the time limit to lodge the appeal under s17(1) of the MSAB Ordinance.  

     Moreover, under s9(1) of the MSAB Ordinance, the Respondent (i.e. the Liquor Licensing Board in liquor licensing appeal cases) is required to serve on an Appellant a statement relating to the administrative decision within 28 days.  However, the Respondent may also apply for extension of the time for serving statement under s17(2) of the same Ordinance.  The Chairman may extend the time limit if he is satisfied that there is good cause for doing so.

     As explained above, there are certain statutory procedures governing the processing of appeals by the MSAB and the actual waiting time may vary considerably depending on the circumstances of each case.  Hence it would not be realistic to set a performance pledge on the waiting time of the MSAB.  That said, we will continue to keep in view its caseload and strive to reduce the waiting time for the appeals to be heard as far as possible.

Ends/Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:36

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