I move the second reading of the INDUSTRIAL TRAINING (CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY) (AMENDMENT) BILL 2001.
2. The Bill aims to empower the Construction Industry Training Authority (CITA) to arrange and pay for statutory medical examinations for construction workers.
3. In July 1999, we introduced the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Medical Examinations) Regulation into this Council. The proposed Regulation seeks to implement the recommendations of the Department of Health's Expert Working Group to extend the coverage of statutory medical examination requirements under the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance from four to 17 designated occupations, and to require such medical examinations to be conducted by appointed medical practitioners trained in occupational health. Under the proposed Regulation, medical examinations will have to be arranged at the expense of the employers. Before we introduced the proposed Regulation, the Labour Advisory Board had been consulted and expressed unanimous support. However, examination of the proposed Regulation could not be completed in the last legislative session because of questions from Members regarding the effects on employees' rights and benefits arising from certain provisions in the proposed Regulation.
4. We estimate that about 195 000 employees will be required to undergo medical examinations under the proposed Regulation and the majority (about 153 000) are construction workers. Given the unique characteristics of the construction industry in having a multi-layered sub-contracting system and high mobility of construction workers, individual proprietors in the industry may have difficulties in complying with the proposed Regulation. When the proposed Regulation was introduced, we proposed to engage the CITA as an agent to arrange medical examinations for construction workers and to impose a 0.03% levy on all construction contracts with a value exceeding $1 million to meet the cost of medical examinations. This new role for the CITA and the levy increase would require amendments to the Industrial Training (Construction Industry) Ordinance.
5. We propose to engage the CITA because it has been providing training and other services to the construction industry and has in place an existing mechanism to collect levy. The arrangement has the support of the CITA, the Hong Kong Construction Association and the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong.
6. We will re-introduce the proposed Regulation into this Council shortly. The proposed Regulation, if enacted, will be implemented in phases to tie in the with the supply of appointed medical practitioners and to allow time for proprietors and employees to prepare themselves. The present Bill, if enacted, will come into effect before the commencement of the proposed Regulation. This is to ensure that the CITA will have the requisite statutory authority to arrange and pay for medical examinations under the proposed Regulation. We will also move a resolution in this Council at a later stage to increase the levy on the construction industry from 0.4% to 0.43% in order to meet the costs of medical examinations.
Thank you, Madam President.