I move the amendments to the clauses read out just now, as set out in the paper circularized to Members. I shall briefly explain the reasons for these amendments.
2. Clause 10 empowers school inspectors to require individuals found in school premises to produce proof of identity and personal particulars when the inspectors have reasonable suspicion that the Education Ordinance or the Education Regulations are not being complied with. Clause 10 as presently worded, however, allows school inspectors to request proof of identity and personal particulars from all individuals present. The proposed amendment is to prescribe more clearly the people from whom a school inspector may demand proof of identity and personal particulars, that is, only those whom the inspector believes to be guilty of an offence under the Ordinance.
3. Clause 25 aims to put beyond doubt the Director of Education's power to stipulate the maximum number of pupils permitted in every classroom. Having further examined this clause, we propose to replace the word "limit" with "specify", since "maximum number" should have already been the limit.
4. Clauses 15 and 26 concern the time bar for prosecution. At present, prosecution under the Education Ordinance and the Education Regulations must take place within six months from the date an offence is committed. Our original proposal was to start the countdown of six months from the date the Director of Education becomes aware of the offence. This is necessary because experience shows that some offences may take a long time before being brought to the attention of the Education Department.
5. As the Bills Committee chairman explained earlier, the Committee has reservations about relaxing the time bar for all offences under the Ordinance. The proposed amendments to clauses 15 and 26 limit the relaxation to offences related to over-enrollment and over-charging or improper collection of school fees only. These offences cause more concern to the community and are not easily detectable. The amendments will also make clear that the countdown will start when an offence is known to the Director of Education or an inspector of schools.
6. Further, to avoid any ambiguity, we propose to amend clause 16 to make clear that the proposed relaxation of the time limit for prosecution will not apply to offences committed before the enactment of the Bill.
7. All the above amendments represent consensus reached between the Government and the Bills Committee. I hope Members will support and pass these amendments. Thank you, Chairman.