Parliament 101

Not many of you know this, but the 1st Session of the 13th Parliament will commence on 15 Jan 2016. What is this 13th parliamentary session that we speak of? Remember those guys you voted for during GE last year? If they won, they are now your voice in parliament and can help you do stuff. Here’s a quick introduction.

I voted during GE and the yandao / chiobu I voted for won in my SMC / GRC. Actually what do they do ah?
That person of your fancy is now your elected Member of Parliament (MP). He/She is now your voice in parliament. If you have any grievances or complaints, you can approach them during their weekly Meet-the-People Sessions (MPS). These sessions give them a feel of ground sentiments and issues, which they may table for discussion during parliamentary sessions.


Who sits in the Singapore Parliament?
The Singapore Parliament consists of the Prime Minister, Members of the Cabinet (Ministers), elected MPs, Non-Constituency MPs and Nominated MPs.


What does the Singapore Parliament do?
The Singapore Parliament makes laws, controls the state’s finances and takes a critical role to check on the efforts of the government and ruling party. If you wish to learn more, you can do so here.

How does it make laws?
There are a few steps to this but we’ll give you the TL;DR version.

  1. Before a law is passed, it is first introduced in Parliament as a draft called a “Bill”
  2. They are mostly introduced by a Minister but any member of the house can introduce a Bill (Private Member’s Bill)
  3. All Bills must go through three readings in Parliament
  4. The President must agree to it before it becomes a law
"Did someone say Bill?"
“Did someone say Bill?”

What is a Reading?
The First Reading is when the bill is first introduced by an MP without debate

  1. After the bill is proposed and the MP asks for a second reading, the other MPs can debate on the disadvantages and advantages of the bill
  2. If the bill is deemed beneficial to the country, the MPs will vote in favour to proceed
  3. The Second Reading will see the bill examined clause by clause. Clauses will be amended when necessary
  4. The Bill will then go through its Third Reading where only minor amendments will be allowed


What happens when a Bill is passed?
Once the Bill is passed after the Third Reading, it must be approved by the President before it becomes a law.


How often is a parliamentary session?
The Singapore Parliament can meet at any time of the year. Parliament may sit only on weekdays. The date of the next sitting can be decided upon adjournment or it can be called by the Speaker.


How long is each session?
Parliament usually starts at 1:30pm and ends at around 7:00pm. The Speaker of Parliament may extend the sitting for a period of not more than 30 minutes so as to complete any part of the business for that sitting.

What happens during a parliamentary session?

  1. Once the date of a session has been decided, MPs will send in notices of, questions they want to ask of the Ministers, amendments to Bills that have been introduced, or issues which they want to discuss. This will be listed on an Order Paper for all on that day
  2. Parliament begins with Question Time (one-and-a-half hours) and only questions listed on the Order Paper will be addressed – cannot hijack
  3. Then they move on to Ministerial Statements and introduction of Bills
  4. Finally they will move on to Orders of the Day and Notices of Motions, plus Second and Third Readings of previously introduced Bills


How long can each MP speak for?
In a normal Parliament sitting, an MP is allowed up to 40 minutes to speak. In reply to the question, a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary is given up to 40 minutes.

But when it comes to discussing newly introduced Bills, they only have 10 minutes to speak.

Never attend need MC?
No need.

Got dress code?
Formal business wear. If you cold, can wear jacket.


Is it free-seating?
No, got seating arrangement one.

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Image Credits: Straits Times, Zaobao, Wikipedia, Straits Times, PMO.

About the author

Jai Ho

I am Jai Ho. I like lamas.

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