SINGAPORE: Parliamentary Standing Orders - rules governing Parliament’s proceedings and conduct - were amended on Monday (May 8) for the first time since 2010. The changes were suggested last month by a 10-member committee chaired by Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob.
One amendment sees the minimum interval between proposed legislation or introduction of a Bill (First Reading) and the resulting debate (Second Reading) increased from seven to 10 working days.
The notice period given to Members of Parliament (MPs) to make amendments will also be doubled from two to four days.
“In effect, this means at least two weeks must pass between the First and Second reading of a Bill,” said Leader of the House Grace Fu. “The increased interval will avoid situations where a Bill comes up for Second Reading too quickly, because the House is sitting for an extended period - for example during Budget debates.”
Another change involved the procedure for Parliament to override the President. Should the President go against the advice of the majority of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) and exercise his veto power, both the President’s grounds and the CPA’s recommendations must be made available to Parliament at least two days before a motion is moved to overrule the President.
Other miscellaneous amendments include allowing political office-holders to circulate a written statement in the House to correct any factual error they make in a Parliamentary speech.
Additionally, MPs may now choose to record their abstention from a vote - previously, they were allowed to record only dissent. And MPs whose questions have not been answered by the end of Question Time are now required to indicate within an hour whether they want to postpone their questions.
“In amending the Standing Orders, we are refining a system which has worked well for Parliament and has been amended and adjusted over time to keep its relevance and effectiveness,” said Ms Fu. “Accounting to Parliament is something this Government takes seriously.”
“On policy and politics we may well disagree sharply… But as Members of Parliament we also share a common duty to maintain the standing of Parliament as an effective and efficient institution.”