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Parliament of Singapore

The legislature of Singapore

Top 10 Parliament of Singapore related articles

13th Parliament (dissolved)
Type
Type
History
Established9 August 1965
Preceded byLegislative Assembly of Singapore
Leadership
Tan Chuan-Jin (PAP)
since 11 September 2017
Lim Biow Chuan (PAP)
since 25 January 2016
Leader of the House
Grace Fu (PAP)
since 1 October 2015
Leader of the Opposition
Pritam Singh (WP)
since 8 April 2018
Structure
Seats105 seats
93 MPs
2 NCMPs
10 NMPs
Political groups
Government
     PAP (83)
Official Opposition
     WP (10)
Other Opposition
     PSP (2 NCMPs)
Nominated Members
     Non-partisan (10)
Length of term
Maximum of 5 years
Elections
First-past-the-post (with general tickets in GRCs)
Last election
10 July 2020
Next election
To be determined
Meeting place
Parliament House
Downtown Core, Singapore
Website
www.parliament.gov.sg
Parliament House by the Singapore River with the dome of the Old Supreme Court Building in the background, photographed on 7 September 2006

The Parliament of the Republic of Singapore and the President jointly make up the legislative branch of the government of Singapore. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the country. Largely based from the Westminster system, the Parliament is unicameral and is made up of Members of Parliament (MPs) who are elected, as well as Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) and Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) who are appointed. Following the 2015 general election, 89 MPs and three NCMPs were elected to the 13th Parliament. Nine NMPs were appointed during the first session of this Parliament. The first sitting of the 13th Parliament took place on 15 January 2016.

Between 1819 and 1867, the lawmaking authorities were the Parliament of the United Kingdom. After the Straits Settlements became a Crown colony, this function was taken over by the Settlements' Legislative Council, which was an unelected body. Following World War II the Straits Settlements were dissolved and Singapore became a colony in its own right with its own Legislative Council. In 1948 the Constitution was amended to allow for six seats in the council to be elected; the country's first democratic elections were held that year. A further amendment in 1955 increased the number of elected seats to 25, and in the general elections that followed, the Labour Front won the majority of the seats in the Legislative Assembly of Singapore and its leader, David Saul Marshall, became the first Chief Minister of Singapore. Self-government was negotiated with the Colonial Office in London in 1956–1957, and became a reality in 1959. In the 1959 general elections, the People's Action Party (PAP) swept to power, and its leader Lee Kuan Yew was appointed Prime Minister of Singapore. Singapore gained independence from Britain by joining Malaysia in 1963, but became a fully independent republic on 9 August 1965. Its Legislative Assembly was renamed the Parliament of Singapore.

The Speaker of Parliament has overall charge of the administration of Parliament and its secretariat, and presides over parliamentary sittings. The Leader of the House is an MP appointed by the Prime Minister to arrange government business and the legislative programme of Parliament, while the unofficial Leader of the Opposition is the MP who leads the largest opposition party able and prepared to assume office if the Government resigns. However, in September 2011, Low Thia Khiang, the secretary-general of the Workers' Party of Singapore, which holds the most opposition seats in Parliament, said that he would not be accepting the title. Some of Parliament's work is carried out by select committees made up of small numbers of MPs. Standing select committees are permanently constituted to fulfil certain duties, and ad hoc select committees are established from time to time to deal with matters such studying the details of bills. In addition, selected PAP backbenchers sit on Government Parliamentary Committees that examine the policies, programmes and proposed legislation of government ministries.

The main functions of Parliament are lawmaking, controlling the nation's finances, and ensuring ministerial accountability. Parliament convenes when it is in session. The first session of a particular Parliament commences when Parliament meets after being formed following a general election. A session ends when Parliament is prorogued (temporarily suspended) or dissolved. The maximum term of each Parliament is five years, after which Parliament automatically dissolves. A general election must then be held within three months.

The quorum for a Parliamentary sitting is one quarter of the total number of MPs, not including the Speaker. An MP begins a debate by moving a motion and delivering an opening speech explaining the reasons for the motion. The Speaker (or chairman, if Parliament is in committee) then puts the motion in the form of a question, following which other MPs may debate the motion. After that, the mover may exercise a right of reply. When the debate is closed, the Speaker puts the question on the motion to the House and calls for a vote. Voting is generally done verbally, and whether the motion is carried depends on the Speaker's personal assessment of whether more MPs have voted for than against the motion. MPs' votes are only formally counted if an MP claims a division.

Parliament regulates its own privileges, immunities and powers. For instance, the freedom of speech and debate and proceedings in Parliament may not be impeached or questioned in any court or other place out of Parliament. Parliament may punish an MP for acting dishonourably, abusing a privilege or behaving contemptuously.

Parliament convened at the Old Parliament House between 1955 and 1999, before moving into a newly constructed Parliament House on 6 September 1999.

Parliament of Singapore Intro articles: 88

Parliament of Singapore YouTube videos

Terminology

The term Parliament is used in a number of different senses. First, it refers to the institution made up of a group of people (Members of Parliament or MPs) who are elected to discuss matters of state. Secondly, it can mean each group of MPs voted into office following a general election. In this sense, the First Parliament of the independent Republic of Singapore sat from 8 December 1965 to 8 February 1968. The current Parliament, which started on 15 January 2016, is the thirteenth.[1][2]

Parliament is sometimes used loosely to refer to Parliament House, which is the seat of the Parliament of Singapore.

Parliament of Singapore Terminology articles: 3

History

Sir Stamford Raffles, regarded as the founder of modern Singapore

On 6 February 1819, Sultan Hussein Shah and the Temenggung of Johor, Abdul Rahman Sri Maharajah, entered into an agreement with Sir Stamford Raffles for the British East India Company (EIC) to establish a "factory" or trading post on the island of Singapore. Raffles, who was Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen (now Bengkulu, Indonesia), placed Singapore under Bencoolen's jurisdiction.[3] As Bencoolen was itself a factory subordinate to the Bengal Presidency in British India,[4] only the Governor-General in Council in Bengal was authorized to enact laws for Singapore. On 24 June 1824 Singapore was removed from Bencoolen's control and, together with Malacca, formally transferred to the EIC.[5] This made them subordinate to Fort William in Calcutta (now Kolkata), the capital of the Bengal Presidency.[6] By a treaty of 19 November 1824, the Sultan and Temenggung of Johor ceded Singapore to the EIC. In 1826, the company constituted Malacca, Prince of Wales Island (now Penang) and Singapore into the Presidency of the Straits Settlements[7] with Penang as the capital.[8] The general power to make laws for the Straits Settlements remained with the Supreme Government in India and the Parliament of the United Kingdom; Penang's legislative power was limited to making rules and regulations relating to duties and taxes that the Settlement was empowered to levy.[9][10]

On 20 June 1830, as a cost-cutting measure, the Straits Settlements ceased to be a separate presidency and were placed under the Bengal Presidency's control by the EIC. In 1833, the Government of India Act[11] passed by the British Parliament created a local government for the whole of India made up of the Governor-General and his counsellors. They were collectively known as the Governor-General of India in Council and had the sole power to pass laws for the Straits Settlements. However, India's slow response to problems in the Settlements such as the ineffective court system and the lack of Straits representation in the Indian legislative council prompted merchants and other prominent people to call for the Settlements to be governed directly by the Colonial Office in the United Kingdom. Finally, on 1 April 1867 the Straits Settlements were separated from the Government of India and became a Crown colony.[12]

Major-General Sir Harry St. George Ord served from 1867 to 1873 as the first governor of the Straits Settlements following its transformation into a Crown colony

Under letters patent dated 4 February 1867, the Straits Settlements were granted a colonial constitution in the usual form. The Governor of the Straits Settlements ruled with the help of an executive council and a legislative council. The executive council was made up of the governor, the commanding officer of the troops in the Straits, and six senior officials (including the colonial secretary, lieutenant-governor of Penang, attorney-general and colonial engineer). The legislative council, in which legislative authority was vested, consisted of the executive council and the chief justice (together known as the official members) and four unofficial members nominated by the governor. As the unofficial members were outnumbered by the official members, they and the governor (who had a casting vote) had effective control of the council. Legislation was generally initiated by the Governor, and he had the power to assent to or veto bills. During legislative debates, official members were required to support the governor, but the unofficials could speak and vote as they wished. In 1924, the system was changed such that two unofficial members of the legislative council were nominated by the governor to sit on the Executive Council. In addition, the number of members of the legislative council was increased to 26, with equal numbers of officials and unofficials. The governor retained his casting vote. The Penang and European chambers of commerce each nominated one unofficial, while the governor nominated the others on an ethnic basis: five Europeans, including one each from Penang and Malacca, three Chinese British subjects, one Malay, one Indian and one Eurasian. This system remained in place until Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942 during World War II.[13]

Following the Second World War, the Straits Settlements were disbanded and Singapore became a Crown colony in its own right.[14] The reconstituted Legislative Council consisted of four ex officio members from the Executive Council, seven official members, between two and four unofficial members, and nine elected members. The Governor continued to hold a veto and certain reserved powers over legislation. As there was a majority of official members in the council, the constitution was criticized for not allowing locals to play an effective role in public affairs. Governor Franklin Charles Gimson therefore formed a Reconstitution Committee that proposed, among other things, recommended that the council should be made up of four ex officio members; five officials; four nominated unofficials; three representatives nominated by the Singapore Chamber of Commerce, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Indian Chamber of Commerce to represent European, Chinese and Indian economic interests; and six members to be elected by universal suffrage. For the first time, non-officials held a majority in the legislature. A new constitution embodying these arrangements came into force on 1 March 1948[15] and Singapore's first democratic elections were held on 20 March that year. Three out of the six elected seats were won by the Progressive Party.[16]

In 1951 three more elected seats were created in the council.[17] In February 1954, the Rendel Constitutional Commission under the chairmanship of Sir George William Rendel, which had been appointed to comprehensively review the constitution of the Colony of Singapore, rendered its report. Among other things, it recommended that the Legislative Council be transformed into a legislative assembly of 32 members made up of three ex officio official members holding ministerial posts, four nominated unofficial members, and 25 elected unofficial members. In addition, a Council of Ministers would be created, composed of the three ex officio members and six elected members appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the Leader of the House, who would be the leader of the largest political party or coalition of parties having majority support in the legislature. The recommendation was implemented in 1955.[18] In the general election held that year, the Labour Front took a majority of the seats in the Assembly, and David Saul Marshall became the first Chief Minister of Singapore. Major problems with the Rendel Constitution were that the Chief Minister and Ministers' powers were ill-defined, and that the official members retained control of the finance, administration, and internal security and law portfolios. This led to confrontation between Marshall, who saw himself as a Prime Minister governing the country, and the Governor, Sir John Fearns Nicoll, who felt that important decisions and policies should remain with himself and the officials.[19][20]

Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, photographed in 2002

In 1956, members of the Legislative Assembly held constitutional talks with the Colonial Office in London. The talks broke down as Marshall did not agree to the British Government's proposal for the casting vote on a proposed Defence Council to be held by the British High Commissioner to Singapore, who would only exercise it in an emergency. Marshall resigned as Chief Minister in June 1956, and was replaced by Lim Yew Hock. The following year, Lim led another delegation to the UK for further talks on self-government. This time, agreement was reached on the composition of an Internal Security Council. Other constitutional arrangements were swiftly settled in 1958, and on 1 August the United Kingdom Parliament passed the State of Singapore Act 1958,[21] granting the colony full internal self-government. Under Singapore's new constitution, which came into force on 3 June 1959,[22] the Legislative Assembly consisted of 51 elected members and the Governor was replaced by the Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Head of State), who had power to appoint as Prime Minister the person most likely to command the authority of the Legislative Assembly, and other Ministers of the Cabinet on the Prime Minister's advice.[23] In the 1959 general elections, the People's Action Party swept to power with 43 out of the 51 seats in the Assembly, and Lee Kuan Yew became the first Prime Minister of Singapore.[24]

In 1963, Singapore gained independence from Britain through merger with Malaysia. In the federal legislature, Singapore was allocated 15 out of 127 seats. Under its new State Constitution,[25] Singapore kept its own executive government and legislative assembly. However, with effect from 9 August 1965, Singapore left Malaysia and became a fully independent republic. On separation from Malaysia, the Singapore Government retained its legislative powers, and the Parliament of Malaysia gave up all power to make laws for Singapore.[26] Similarly, the Republic of Singapore Independence Act 1965,[27] passed on 22 December 1965 and made retrospective to 9 August, declared that the legislative powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Supreme Head of the Federation) and Parliament of Malaysia ceased and vested in the president and the Parliament of Singapore respectively.[28]

Parliament of Singapore History articles: 43

Composition

Members of Parliament

The Parliament of Singapore is unicameral – all Members of Parliament (MPs) make up a single chamber, and there is no senate or upper house. At present, the effect of the Constitution of Singapore and other legislation is that there can be a maximum of 99 MPs. Eighty-seven are elected by the people while up to nine Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs)[29] and up to nine Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) may be appointed,[30] following changes to the Constitution enacted on 26 April 2010.[31] After the 2020 general election, 93 MPs were elected[32] and two NCMPs were appointed (or, in the terms of the Parliamentary Elections Act,[33] declared elected) to Parliament.[34]

Elected Members

Lim Hwee Hua, former MP for Aljunied GRC and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Seoul, South Korea, on 19 June 2009. Lim became the first woman MP to be appointed a full minister of the Cabinet of Singapore, but lost her parliamentary seat at the 2011 general election.

As of the 2020 general election, for the purpose of Parliamentary elections, Singapore was divided into 31 electoral divisions (also known as constituencies).[35][36] The names and boundaries of the divisions are specified by the Prime Minister by notification in the Government Gazette.[37] 14 of these divisions are Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) and 17 are Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs). GRCs were introduced in 1991 for the purpose of ensuring representation of the Malay, Indian and other minority communities in Parliament.[38] In a GRC, all the candidates must either be members of the same political party or independent candidates standing as a group,[39] and at least one of the candidates must be a person belonging to the Malay, Indian or some other minority community.[40] The president, at Cabinet's direction, declares the electoral divisions that are to be GRCs; the number of candidates (not less than three but not more than six) to stand for Parliament in each GRC; and whether the minority candidates in each GRC are to be from the Malay, Indian, or other minority communities.[41] At all times there must be at least eight divisions that are not GRCs,[42] and the number of Members of Parliament (MPs) to be returned by all GRCs cannot be less than a quarter of the total number of MPs to be returned at a general election.[43]

Each electoral division returns one MP, or if it is a GRC the number of MPs designated for the constituency by the president, to serve in Parliament.[44] All GRCs currently have between four and six MPs.[45][46] In other words, a successful voter's single vote in an SMC sends to Parliament one MP, and in a GRC sends a slate of either four, five or six MPs depending on how many have been designated for that GRC. At present, SMCs return to Parliament 12 MPs and GRCs 75 MPs. All elected MPs are selected on a simple plurality voting ("first past the post") basis.[47] A person is not permitted to be an MP for more than one constituency at the same time.[48]

In the last general election in 2020, the incumbent People's Action Party (PAP) won 83 of the 93 seats, but once again lost Hougang SMC, Aljunied GRC, and the newly created Sengkang GRC to the Workers' Party of Singapore (WP). This is the first time more than one GRC has been won by an opposition party in a single election. With the Workers' Party ending up with ten elected seats in Parliament, this was the best opposition parliamentary result since independence and the largest amount of oppositions in the Parliament of Singapore since independence.[49] Out of the current 93 elected MPs, 26 (about 27.96%) are female.[50] This was an increase from the figure of about 22.47% for the 13th Parliament(before the resignation of Halimah Yacob) , in which 20 of the 89 elected MPs were women.[51]

e • d Summary of the 10 July 2020 Parliament of Singapore election results[52][53]
Parties and alliances Leader Contested seats Divs won Seats won Popular vote % of valid votes +/- % of valid votes in wards contested by party +/-
SMC GRC Divs Total
4m 5m
People's Action Party Lee Hsien Loong 14 6 11 31 93 28 83 1,524,781 61.24
 
8.62 61.24
 
8.62
Workers' Party Pritam Singh 2 1 3 6 21 3 10 279,245 11.22
 
1.26 50.49
 
10.74
Progress Singapore Party Tan Cheng Bock 5 1 3 9 24 0 0 253,459 10.18
 
New 40.85
 
New
Singapore Democratic Party Chee Soon Juan 3 2 0 5 11 0 0 110,827 4.45
 
0.69 37.04
 
5.81
National Solidarity Party Spencer Ng 0 0 2 2 10 0 0 93,546 3.76
 
0.23 33.15
 
7.88
Peoples Voice Lim Tean 1 1 1 3 10 0 0 59,060 2.37
 
New 21.26
 
New
Reform Party Kenneth Jeyaretnam 1 0 1 2 6 0 0 54,505 2.19
 
0.44 27.84
 
7.24
Singapore People's Party Steve Chia 1 1 0 2 5 0 0 37,869 1.52
 
0.65 33.83
 
6.75
Singapore Democratic Alliance Desmond Lim 0 0 1 1 5 0 0 37,179 1.49
 
0.57 23.67
 
3.44
Red Dot United Ravi Philemon 0 0 1 1 5 0 0 31,191 1.25
 
New 25.38
 
New
People's Power Party Goh Meng Seng 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 7,477 0.30
 
0.83 28.26
 
5.15
Independents N/A 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 654 0.03
 
0.09 2.78
 
N/A
Valid votes 2,489,793 98.19% of total votes cast
Invalid (e.g. blank or spoilt) votes 45,772 1.81% of total votes cast
Total votes cast 2,535,565 Voter turnout: 95.63% of eligible voters
Did not vote 115,870
Eligible voters (excluding walkover voters) 2,651,435
Walkover voters 0
Electorate 2,651,435

Appointed Members

Non-constituency Members of Parliament
Steve Chia, who was an NCMP from 2001 to 2006, at a Singapore Democratic Alliance election rally on 2 May 2006

Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) were introduced in 1984 to ensure the representation in Parliament of a minimum number of MPs from a political party or parties not forming the Government.[54] With effect from 10 July 2020, the Constitution provides that the number of NCMPs in Parliament is twelve less the number of opposition MPs elected.[55] Following the 2020 general election, since ten opposition MPs were elected to Parliament, the law provided for up to two NCMPs to be declared elected. The seats were taken by either Mr Leong Mun Wai, Ms Hazel Poa, Mr Nadarajah Loganathan, or Mr Jeffrey Khoo of the Progress Singapore Party.[56]

To be eligible to become an NCMP, a candidate must have polled not less than 15% of the total number of valid votes in the electoral division contested by him or her.[57] The unelected opposition candidate who receives the highest percentage of votes is entitled to be declared the first NCMP, followed by other opposition candidates in descending order according to the percentages of votes polled by them.[58] If any candidates have an equal percentage of votes and the number of such candidates exceeds the number of NCMPs to be declared elected, the NCMPs are determined as follows:[59]

  • If all the candidates are from the same group of candidates nominated in a GRC, the Returning Officer overseeing the election in the relevant electoral division will inform the group of the number of candidates in the group to be declared elected as NCMPs. The members of the group must determine among themselves who shall be elected and inform the Returning Officer within seven days.
  • In other cases, or if the Returning Officer is not notified of a decision by the group of candidates referred to in the preceding paragraph, the Returning Officer will determine the NCMPs to be deemed elected by drawing lots.
Nominated Members of Parliament

In 1990, the Constitution was amended to provide for the appointment of up to nine Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) to Parliament.[60] The change was prompted by the impression that the existing two Opposition MPs had not adequately expressed significant alternative views held outside Parliament, and that the scheme would allow the Government to take advantage of the expertise of Singaporeans who were not able or prepared to take part in elections and look after constituencies.[61]

Formerly, within six months after Parliament first met after any general election, it had to decide whether there would be any NMPs during the term of that Parliament.[62] With effect from 1 July 2010,[63] such a decision became unnecessary as NMPs were made a permanent feature in Parliament.[31][64] A special select committee of Parliament chaired by the Speaker of Parliament is established, and invites the general public to submit names of persons who may be considered for nomination by the Committee.[65] From these names, the special select committee then nominates not more than nine persons for appointment by the president as NMPs.[66] The persons to be nominated must have rendered distinguished public service, or have brought honour to Singapore, or have distinguished themselves in the field of arts and letters, culture, the sciences, business, industry, the professions, social or community service or the labour movement; and in making any nomination, the special select committee must have regard to the need for NMPs to reflect as wide a range of independent and non-partisan views as possible.[67] Subject to rules on the tenure of MPs in general, NMPs serve for a term of two and a half years.[68] The first two NMPs sworn in on 20 December 1990 were cardiologist Professor Maurice Choo and company executive Leong Chee Whye.[69] On 6 July 2009, the special select committee announced that it had submitted the names of nine individuals to the President for appointment as new NMPs.[70]

Participation in Parliament

NMPs can participate in all Parliamentary debates, but cannot vote on any motion relating to:[71]

  • bills to amend the Constitution;
  • Supply Bills, Supplementary Supply Bills or Final Supply Bills, which authorize the spending of public funds by the Government;
  • Money Bills, which deal with various finance-related matters;[72]
  • votes of no confidence in the Government; and
  • removal of the president from office.

Qualifications

Persons are qualified to be elected or appointed as Members of Parliament if:[73]

  1. they are Singapore citizens;
  2. they are 21 years of age or above on the day of nomination for election;
  3. their names appear in a current register of electors;
  4. they are resident in Singapore at the date of nomination and have been so resident for an aggregate period of not less than ten years before that date;
  5. they are able, with a degree of proficiency sufficient to enable them to take an active part in Parliamentary proceedings, to speak and, unless incapacitated by blindness or some other physical cause, to read and write at least one of the following languages: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil; and
  6. they are not otherwise disqualified from being MPs under Article 45 of the Constitution.

Article 45 provides that persons are not qualified to be MPs if:[74]

  1. they are and have been found or declared to be of unsound mind;
  2. they are undischarged bankrupts;
  3. they hold offices of profit;
  4. having been nominated for election to Parliament or the office of President or having acted as election agent to a person so nominated, they have failed to lodge any return of election expenses required by law within the time and in the manner required;
  5. they have been convicted of an offence by a court of law in Singapore or Malaysia and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or to a fine of not less than S$2,000 and have not received a free pardon;[75]
  6. they have voluntarily acquired the citizenship of, or exercised rights of citizenship in, a foreign country or has made a declaration of allegiance to a foreign country;[76] or
  7. they are disqualified under any law relating to offences in connection with elections to Parliament or the office of President by reason of having been convicted of such an offence or having in proceedings relating to such an election been proved guilty of an act constituting such an offence.

A person's disqualification for having failed to properly lodge a return of election expenses or having been convicted of an offence[77] may be removed by the president. If the president has not done so, the disqualification ceases at the end of five years from the date when the return was required to be lodged or, as the case may be, the date when the person convicted was released from custody or the date when the fine was imposed. In addition, a person is not disqualified for acquiring or exercising rights of foreign citizenship or declared allegiance to a foreign country if he or she did so before becoming a Singapore citizen.[78]

Tenure of office

If an MP becomes subject to any disqualification specified in paragraph 1, 2, 5 or 7 above[79] and it is open to the Member to appeal against the decision, the Member immediately ceases to be entitled to sit or vote in Parliament or any committee of it. However, he or she is not required to vacate his or her seat until the end of 180 days beginning with the date of the adjudication, declaration or conviction, as the case may be.[80] After that period, the MP must vacate his or her seat if he or she continues to be subject to one of the previously mentioned disqualifications.[81] Otherwise, the MP is entitled to resume sitting or voting in Parliament immediately after ceasing to be disqualified.[82]

The above rules do not operate to extend the term of service of an NMP beyond two and a half years.[83]

MPs also cease to hold office when Parliament is dissolved, or before that if their seats become vacant for one of the following reasons:[84]

  1. if they cease to be Singapore citizens;
  2. if they cease to be members of, or are expelled or resign from, the political parties they stood for in the election;
  3. if they resign their seats by writing to the Speaker;
  4. if they have been absent without the Speaker's permission from all sittings of Parliament or any Parliamentary committee to which they have been appointed for two consecutive months in which the sittings are held;
  5. if they become subject to any of the disqualifications in Article 45;
  6. if Parliament exercises its power of expulsion on them; or
  7. if, being NMPs, their terms of service expire.

On 14 February 2012, Yaw Shin Leong, former MP for Hougang Single Member Constituency, was expelled from the Workers' Party for refusing to explain allegations of marital infidelity against him. After he notified the Clerk of Parliament that he did not intend to challenge his ouster, the Speaker stated that his Parliamentary seat had been vacated with effect from the date of expulsion, and that a formal announcement would be made in Parliament on the matter on 28 February.[85]

NMPs must vacate their Parliamentary seats if they stand as candidates for any political party in an election or if they are elected as MPs for any constituencies.[86] A person whose seat in Parliament has become vacant may, if qualified, again be elected or appointed as a Member of Parliament from time to time.[87] Any person who sits or votes in Parliament, knowing or having reasonable ground for knowing they are not entitled to do so, is liable to a penalty not exceeding $200 for each day that they sit or vote.[88]

Decisions on disqualification questions

Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam (1926–2008), pictured here in November 2005, was the first Opposition MP to be elected to Parliament since Singapore's independence in 1965

Any question whether any MP has vacated his or her seat, or, in the case of a person elected as Speaker or Deputy Speaker from among non-MPs, he or she ceases to be a citizen of Singapore or becomes subject to any of the disqualifications specified in Article 45,[89] is to be determined by Parliament, the decision of which on the matter is final.[90]

This does not mean that an MP retains his or her Parliamentary seat despite being under some disqualification until Parliament has made a formal decision on the matter. On 10 November 1986, the MP for Anson, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam of the Workers' Party of Singapore, lost an appeal against a conviction for making a false statement in a declaration and was sentenced to one month's imprisonment and a fine of $5,000. Further applications and appeals in the criminal proceedings to the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Privy Council (then Singapore's highest court) were dismissed.[91] On 9 December, the Speaker of Parliament made a statement in the House that Jeyaretnam had ceased to be an MP with effect from 10 November by virtue of having been convicted of an offence and sentenced to a fine of not less than $2,000. Jeyaretnam did not object to the statement at the time. Under Article 45(2) of the Constitution, he was disqualified to be an MP until five years had elapsed from the date the fine was imposed. Jeyaretnam subsequently applied to court for a declaration that, among other things, he had not ceased to be an MP in 1986 and that the Speaker's statement had been ineffective because Parliament itself had not determined that he had vacated his seat. On 9 July 1990, the High Court ruled that Jeyaretnam had ceased to be an MP by operation of law and that no separate determination by Parliament had been necessary.[92]

Remuneration and pensions

MPs receive a monthly allowance,[93] a non-pensionable annual allowance (commonly known as the 13th month pay), and an annual variable component that is paid in July and December each year.[94] The monthly allowance is 56% of the salary of an Administrative Service officer at the SR9 grade – the entry grade for Singapore's top civil servants – which is itself benchmarked at the salary of the 15th person aged 32 years from six professions: banking, law, engineering, accountancy, multinational companies and local manufacturers. In 1995, the monthly allowance was S$8,375 ($100,500 per year).[95] The allowance was revised in 2000 to $11,900 ($142,800 per year).[96]

In 2007, it was announced that civil service salaries had lagged behind those in the private sector and required revision. MPs' salaries were therefore increased in phases. In 2007, the monthly allowance was revised to $13,200, raising the annual sum to $158,400. A gross domestic product (GDP) bonus payable to civil servants was also extended to MPs to link their annual remuneration to the state of the economy. They would receive no bonus if GDP growth was 2% or less, one month's bonus if the GDP grew at 5%, and up to two months' bonus if the GDP growth reached or exceeded 8%. MPs' allowances to engage legislative and secretarial assistants were also increased from $1,000 to $1,300 and from $350 to $500 respectively.[95] With effect from January 2008, each MP received another increase of his or her allowance package to $13,710 a month, bringing it to $225,000 per year.[97] Subsequently, in 2012, MP's allowances were reduced to $192,500 per annum.[98]

Persons who have reached the age of 50 years and retired as MPs and who have served in this capacity for not less than nine years may be granted a pension for the rest of their lives. The annual amount payable is ​130 of the person's highest annual salary for every completed year of service and ​1360 for every uncompleted year, up to a ceiling of two-thirds of the Member's annual salary.[99] No person has an absolute right to compensation for past services or to any pension or gratuity, and the president may reduce or withhold pensions and gratuities upon an MP's conviction for corruption.[100]

Speaker of Parliament

The Speaker has overall charge of the administration of Parliament and its secretariat. His or her official role is to preside over parliamentary sittings,[101] moderating debates and making decisions based on the Standing Orders of Parliament for the proper conduct of parliamentary business. The Speaker does not participate in debates, but can abstain or vote for or against a motion if he or she is entitled to do so by virtue of being an MP. The Speaker also acts as the representative of Parliament in its external relations, welcoming visiting dignitaries and representing Parliament at national events and overseas visits.[102]

The Speaker must be elected when Parliament first meets after any general election, before it proceeds to deal with any other business. Similarly, whenever the office of Speaker is vacant for some reason other than a dissolution of Parliament, no business must be transacted other than the election of a person to fill that office.[103] The Speaker may be elected from among the MPs who are not Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries, but even a person who is not an MP can be chosen. Nonetheless, a candidate who is not an MP must possess the qualifications to stand for election as an MP.[104] The Speaker's salary may not be reduced while he is in office.[105]

The Speaker may at any time resign his or her office by writing to the Clerk of Parliament. The Speaker must vacate his or her office

  • when Parliament first meets after a general election;
  • in the case of a Speaker who is also an MP, if he ceases to be an MP for a reason other than a dissolution of Parliament, or if he or she is appointed to be a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary; or
  • in the case of a Speaker elected from among persons who are not MPs, if he or she ceases to be a Singapore citizen or becomes subject to any of the disqualifications stated in Article 45.[89]
Halimah Yacob, Singapore's ninth and first woman Speaker, now the eighth and first woman President of Singapore.

Parliament shall from time to time elect two Deputy Speakers. Whenever the office of a Deputy Speaker is vacant for a reason other than a dissolution of Parliament, Parliament shall, as soon as is convenient, elect another person to that office.[106] As with the Speaker, a Deputy Speaker may be elected either from among the MPs who are neither Ministers nor Parliamentary Secretaries or from among persons who are not MPs, but those in the latter category must have the qualifications to be elected an MP.[107] Deputy Speakers may resign their office in the same way as the Speaker, and must vacate their office in the same circumstances.[108]

If there is no one holding the office of Speaker, or if the Speaker is absent from a sitting of Parliament or is otherwise unable to perform the functions conferred by the Constitution, these functions may be performed by a Deputy Speaker. If there is no Deputy Speaker or he or she is likewise absent or unable to perform the functions, they may be carried out by some other person elected by Parliament for the purpose.[109]

Michael Palmer, speaker of the 12th Parliament resigned on 12 December 2012 after admitting he had an extramarital affair.[110]

Halimah Yacob was elected in his place on 14 January 2013, becoming Singapore's first female Speaker[111], who proceeded to resign as both Speaker, MP and member of the PAP on 7 August 2017, to stand as a candidate for the 2017 presidential election,[112] and won uncontested on the nomination day held 13 September 2017.[113]

The current Speaker of Parliament is Tan Chuan-Jin, who was last appointed Minister for Social and Family Development, with effect from 11 September 2017.[114]

Leader of the House

The Leader of the House is an MP appointed by the Prime Minister to arrange government business and the legislative programme of Parliament. He or she initiates motions concerning the business of the House during sittings, such as actions to be taken on procedural matters and extending sitting times.[115]

The current Leader of the House is Grace Fu[115] who has assumed this office on 1 October 2015. She is assisted by Deputy Leader Desmond Lee.

Past Leaders of the House

Leader of the Opposition

Former unofficial Leader of the Opposition Chiam See Tong at a Singapore Democratic Alliance rally on 2 May 2006 for the general election that year

In parliamentary systems of government on the Westminster model, the Leader of the Opposition is the MP who is the leader of the largest opposition party able and prepared to assume office if the Government resigns. This political party often forms a Shadow Cabinet, the members of which serve as opposition spokespersons on key areas of government.[116] Singapore law does not provide for an official Leader of the Opposition, though the leader of the largest opposition party in Parliament is usually given the title of unofficial Leader of the Opposition. This is taken into consideration by the Speaker when seats in Parliament are allocated, and during a debate the MP so designated is often given the privilege of being one of the first non-Government MPs to speak.[117]

Singapore presently does not have a shadow cabinet in Parliament as the People's Action Party (PAP) has held an overwhelming majority of the seats in the House since it came to power in 1959. However, at the 1991 general election four opposition politicians were elected to Parliament: Chiam See Tong, Cheo Chai Chen and Ling How Doong from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), and Low Thia Khiang from the Workers' Party of Singapore (WP).[118] On 6 January 1992 during a Parliamentary debate on the election of the Speaker of Parliament, the Leader of the House Wong Kan Seng said that he proposed to treat Chiam, then the SDP's secretary-general, as the "unofficial Leader of the Opposition" and that the House should give him "due courtesy and precedence among Opposition MPs". He likened the situation to that in the Legislative Assembly of Singapore in 1955 when the PAP won three out of four contested seats, and Lee Kuan Yew was de facto Leader of the Opposition.[119] After Chiam was replaced by Ling as secretary-general of the SDP in 1993, the latter was referred to as the unofficial Leader of the Opposition.[120]

In the 2006 general election, Chiam and Low retained their seats, and Sylvia Lim from the WP was appointed an NCMP. The prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, referred to Low, who is the WP's secretary-general, as Leader of the Opposition during a debate in the House on 13 November 2006.[121] However, following the 2011 general election, Low announced he would not be accepting the title. He said: "Either you have a leader of the opposition, or you do not have it. There's no need to have an unofficial leader of the opposition." He also noted that the title appeared "derogatory" to him because it implied that "you only qualify as unofficial".[117] Pritam Singh took over as the Leader of Opposition upon being elected as WP's new secretary-general on 8 April 2018.

Following the results of the 2020 general election, where the Workers' Party won 10 seats, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong designated party leader Pritam Singh as the official Leader of the Opposition and "will be provided with appropriate staff support and resources to perform his duties". [122][123][124].

Party whip

The primary role of a party whip in Parliament is to enforce party discipline and ensure that sufficient numbers of MPs from his or her political parties attend sittings of the House and vote along party lines. From time to time, a whip may "lift the whip" and allow MPs to vote according to their consciences.[125] In March 2009, the whip was lifted for PAP MPs during debates on amendments to the Human Organ Transplant Act[126] that would permit financial compensation to be paid to organ donors.[127] A whip also schedules the MPs that will speak for each item of Parliamentary business.

The present government whip is Janil Puthucheary, assisted by two deputy government whips, Sim Ann and Zaqy Mohamad.[115] The party whip for the Workers' Party is Low Thia Khiang, and the deputy party whip is Sylvia Lim.[128]

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