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LCQ9: Hawker Assistance Scheme
     Following is a question by the Hon Ho Kai-ming and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 1):


     The Government launched the Assistance Scheme for Hawkers in Fixed-pitch Hawker Areas in June 2013. One of the arrangements under the Assistance Scheme is to provide a one-off ex-gratia payment to hawkers operating in 43 fixed-pitch hawker areas who have opted for voluntary surrender of their hawker licences to the Government. The Assistance Scheme has been in place for four years since its launch and will expire in June next year. Regarding the implementation of the Assistance Scheme, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective numbers of applications received and approved so far by the authorities for surrender of hawker licences, and set out a breakdown of the approved applications by (i) name of fixed-pitch hawker area and (ii) location of stall in the hawker area; and

(2) as the authorities indicated at a committee meeting of this Council that they would consider re-issuing the surrendered hawker licences for application by interested parties, whether the authorities will consult the trade and the public on the plan of re-issuing the hawker licences; if so, of the details and timetable; if not, the reasons for that; and of the expected time for announcing the details of the plan?



     To reduce the fire risks posed by on-street hawking activities, the Government obtained funding approval of $230 million from the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council on March 15, 2013 for operating a Hawker Assistance Scheme (the Scheme) for the licensed hawkers in 43 fixed-pitch hawker areas in the territory. The five-year Scheme commenced on June 3, 2013. It aims to further improve the fire resisting capability and design of hawker stalls, and to relocate stalls away from staircase discharge points of buildings or emergency vehicular access.

     The Scheme covers the following features:

(i) Hawkers who are required by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) to relocate their stalls for fire safety reasons may apply for a one-off relocation cum reconstruction grant to dismantle their old stalls and build new ones at the newly assigned pitch spaces to meet the fire-resisting specifications drawn up by FEHD in consultation with the Fire Services Department and the Buildings Department.

(ii) Hawkers who are not required to relocate their stalls under (i) may apply for a one-off in-situ reconstruction grant to carry out partial or full reconstruction of their stalls in-situ to meet the prescribed fire-resisting specifications for reducing fire risks.

(iii) An ex-gratia payment (EGP) of $120,000 will be paid to hawkers (except those whose licences are newly issued pursuant to the hawker licensing policy review in 2008-09 (note)) who opt for voluntary surrender of their hawker licences to the Government. This helps expedite the release of vacant pitches and hence facilitates the relocation of stalls which pose higher fire risks. Hawkers who have obtained a one-off grant for relocation cum reconstruction or in-situ reconstruction of their stalls under the Scheme will however not be eligible for EGP, if they surrender their hawker licences subsequently.

     My reply to the various parts of the questions is as follow:

(1) Since the Scheme was launched in June 2013, apart from relocating stalls of higher fire risks and handling stall reconstruction as a matter of priority, FEHD has also endeavoured to bring about enhancement to the operating environment in the hawker areas, including rationalising the overall layout of the concerned hawker areas where circumstances permitted and enhancing safety of the fixed electrical installations to hawker stalls. As at September 30, 2017, excluding applications for stall relocation and reconstruction, 789 eligible hawkers surrendered their licences for EGP. Among them, 720 cases were completed with concerned pitches vacated.

     Regarding the pitches mentioned above, some have been used to accommodate stalls located outside building staircase discharge points or emergency vehicular access and stalls that require relocation due to fire safety considerations; some have been absorbed in the course of rationalisation of the overall layout of hawker areas; and some have been reserved for resiting commitments. As at September 30, 2017, only 336 vacant pitches remain. Please refer to Annex for details.

     FEHD is actively following up cases in which hawkers have yet to apply for the Scheme or the reconstruction of stalls is still in progress, thereby bringing all stalls up to relevant standards and improving the fire safety of the hawker areas by the end of the Scheme in June 2018.

(2) As regards whether to re-issue new hawker licences to fill the existing and future vacant pitches, FEHD will carefully consider the matter in due course, taking into account the circumstances of individual hawker areas, including fire safety, environmental hygiene situations, business environment, comments of relevant departments, as well as the views of relevant District Councils and local residents. The matter will be reported to the relevant panel of the Legislative Council when appropriate.

Note: A comprehensive review on hawker licensing policy was conducted in 2008 and 2009.  A number of measures were subsequently implemented, including issue of new hawker licences for vacant fixed pitches with support from respective District Councils. For this group of new entrants to the hawking trade, should they choose to surrender their licences so soon after the licences have been issued, a strong case for granting them an EGP does not exist.
Ends/Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Issued at HKT 19:38
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