The Legislative Council panel on housing has rejected a motion to investigate lead contamination in the water supply of public housing estates.
The panel voted down a motion to set up an investigative committee, using the LegCo powers and privileges ordinance, by a margin of 11:8.
In the meeting, Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung also said that an independent report on the scandal, initiated by the chief executive, may not be fully publicised as it could contain legal proceedings. The chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry will decide whether or not to release its findings publicly.
On July 10, the government first confirmed that the Kai Ching Estate had lead concentrations in its water supply exceeding World Health Organisation standards. Lead contamination was found in two other estates last Tuesday and on Monday.
Despite lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum criticising the government’s handling of the incident, 11 pro-establishment lawmakers voted against the motion, while the eight present pan-democrat legislators voted in support of an investigation at Wednesday’s meeting.
On the panel, both the pro-establishment camp and the pan-democratic camp have 11 members each. However, three pan-democrats were absent during the vote, including People Power’s Albert Chan Wai-yip, the Democratic Party’s James To Kun-sun, and Neighbourhood Workers’ Leung Yiu-chung.
The last Commission of Inquiry was established to investigate the facts of the Lamma Island ferry collision in 2012, which killed 39 people and injured 92 others. The commission was announced by the chief executive in October 2012, with the final report published – with redactions – in April 2013. The two captains were charged with manslaughter and the legal proceedings concluded in February 2015.
On Tuesday, 39 mothers and children under aged six were confirmed to have elevated levels of lead content in blood. The waiting list for blood testing has also increased to over 900 people earlier this week.
The Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance grants the LegCo committee or council wide-ranging powers, including:
- Witnesses to have immunity from legal proceedings for word spoken in the meeting.
- Summoning witnesses and compelling witnesses to attend via issuing warrants.
- Right to examine any record or document.