Toting up the Bills: Debating legislation in Parliament

11 November, 2019

Associate Professor Bertha Henson (NUS Department of Communications and New Media) and Mr Sean Lim (NUS Department of Political Science), in an editorial in Yahoo! News, provide an overview of the legislation that the 13th Parliament of Singapore has handled during its term, and identify noteworthy Bills that have introduced new laws or amended existing ones. They also tally the number of the times each Member of Parliament (MP) has joined in a debate on legislation.

Before Bills become law, they are vetted by the Presidential Council for Minority Rights and approved by the President of Singapore. As of October 2019, 163 Bills have been approved by the sitting Parliament, in efforts to deal with external security concerns such as the threats of foreign influence, terrorism, social disharmony, and shifting domestic mores on crime and punishment.

Among the changes this year were the Criminal Law Reform Bill, Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill, and Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA). There was also the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Bill 2016, which made changes to the Elected Presidency and the non-constituency MP scheme. This Bill was the most hotly-debated of all, with 41 MPs speaking on it for a total of 14 hours and 27 minutes. POFMA and the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act ranked 2nd and 3rd in terms of the number of MPs who debated and the duration of the debate.

A/P Henson and Mr Lim propose that the number of times an MP has joined a debate on legislation gives an idea of how hardworking he or she is. They believe that an MP is first and foremost a parliamentarian, and ought to turn up for parliamentary sittings and actively participate. In this regard, Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency (GRC) MP Louis Ng performed the best, speaking on a total of 122 Bills. Finally, A/P Henson and Mr Lim encourage Singaporeans to be aware of what goes on in Parliament via watching and reading the news, and even observing sessions through the public gallery in Parliament.

Read the article here.