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Parliamentary Glossary






  Parliamentary Glossary  

Term   Definition  
  Cabinet   A body consisting of the Prime Minister and Ministers. (See Front Bench) The Cabinet has the general direction and control of Government. It takes charge of all Government policies and the day-to-day administration of the affairs of state. The Cabinet is collectively responsible to Parliament. (See also Ministerial Responsibility) Arts 24 and 25 of the CRS.
  Catching the Speaker’s Eye   During debates in the House, several Members may indicate their intention to speak at the same time. In such a case, the Speaker may decide to give the floor to whoever catches his eye first. S.O. 45.  
  Chair   The term refers to the Chair of the House or the Chair of the Committee. The Speaker occupies the Chair of the House and the Chairman sits in the Chair of the Committee.

The term also refers to the person occupying the Chair, whether in Parliament or in Committee of the whole Parliament. The occupant is usually the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. Members are required to address all speeches and remarks “to the Chair” and not to any individual Member.

  Chairman   The Speaker or Deputy Speaker assumes the role of Chairman when the House sits in Committee. By custom, Members are supposed to address the Speaker as “Mr Speaker” even when he assumes the role of Chairman, and to use the term “Mr Chairman” only when a Deputy Speaker or, in the absence of Speaker or Deputy Speaker, another Member chairs the proceedings.1 S.O. 8.

1 On 2 December 1971, Mr N. Govindasamy was elected to perform the functions of the Speaker, in the absence of Speaker Yeoh Ghim Seng.

  Chamber   The hall where Parliament holds its sittings.  
  Civil List   The term refers to the annual provision of money by Parliament for the salary and expenses of the President. Art 22J of the CRS.  
  Clause   Each numbered paragraph in a Bill is referred to as a clause.  
  Clear Days   Where “clear days” are specified for notices, the computation of “clear days” excludes certain days. The days excluded are the day on which the notice is handed in, the day of the sitting and any intervening Saturday, Sunday or public holiday. (See also Notice).
  Clerk of Parliament   The Clerk of Parliament2 is appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker and the Public Service Commission. He advises the Speaker and Members of Parliament on matters of parliamentary practice and procedure. He also reads the orders of the day during a sitting. He sits at the Clerk’s Table below the Speaker’s Chair. The Clerk is assisted by the Assistant Clerks of Parliament. The office of the Clerk is also responsible for the daily administration of the activities of Parliament and its secretariat. Art 51 of the CRS.

2The office of the Clerk of Parliament is derived from the House of Commons. In the Commons, there has been an unbroken line of Clerks since 1368. In some Parliaments, such as the Parliaments of India and the Philippines, the Clerk is known as the Secretary-General.

  Closure of Debate   (Also known as a “gag”. This is a procedure for closing a debate when there are still some Members who wish to speak. The Speaker or Chairman may refuse to put the question to close a debate if it appears to him that such a motion is an abuse of the rules of Parliament or an infringement of the rights of the minority. S.O. 52.
  Coalition Government   It is formed when two or more political parties unite to form a majority bloc in Parliament. This usually happens when no single party is able to win the majority (more than half) of the seats in Parliament to form a Government. (See also Hung Parliament)  
  Collection of Voices   Most questions proposed for decision in Parliament are determined by a majority vote (some votes such as amendments to the Constitution require a two-thirds’ majority). The vote is usually carried out by a collection of voices (“ayes” and “noes”).

At the end of a debate, the Speaker will put the question and invite “As many as are of that opinion say ‘Aye’”. Those Members supporting the motion comply. He then continues, “To the contrary say ‘No’”, and those who are not in favour of the motion express their opinion. Based on the strength of the respective responses, the Speaker will state his opinion and say, “I think the Ayes (or Noes, as the case may be) have it”. At this point, a Member may challenge the Speaker’s decision and, with at least four other Members supporting him, claim a division. (See Division) If the Speaker’s opinion is not challenged, he then declares, “The Ayes (or Noes, as the case may be) have it”. S.O. 60.

  Command Paper   A paper presented to Parliament by command of the President. In practice, such presentations are made on the initiative of a Minister. Examples of Command Papers include White Papers and Annual Reports of ministries and their departments. (See also Parliamentary Paper).
  Committal of a Bill   A Bill is committed for consideration by a Committee following its Second Reading. Such consideration may take place either in the Committee of the whole Parliament or a Select Committee. During the committee stage, each clause of the Bill will be dealt with in detail. (See also Passage of a Bill) S.O. 69.
  Committee of Privileges   A sessional Select Committee appointed by Parliament at the beginning of each session to look into any complaint alleging a breach of parliamentary privilege. The Committee is chaired by the Speaker. When a complaint is referred to it by Parliament, the Committee will meet, examine witnesses and make its recommendations to Parliament in a report. The privileges of Parliament and its Members, the offences which may be committed against them and the penalties which may be imposed are contained in the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act (Cap. 217). (See also Select Committee) S.O. 96(7).  
  Committee of Selection   A sessional Select Committee chaired by the Speaker which nominates Members to the various Select Committees. Its nominations are reported to the House. (See also Select Committee) S.O. 96(1).
  Committee of Supply   A Committee of the whole Parliament that considers the business of Supply. It usually sits for seven days or more in March to deal with the estimates of expenditure for the coming financial year. (See also Estimates of Expenditure).

The Committee considers each ministry’s request for funds and votes on it. Members may propose nominal cuts of $100 or $10 to each ministry’s estimates. By moving a cut, a Member gets a “peg” to debate on the policies ($100 cut) and details of programmes ($10 cut) of that ministry. These debates in the Committee of Supply are also known as “Grievance Debates” as Members take this opportunity to raise their disagreements and complaints against the various ministries’ programmes. After the Committee has voted on the estimates, it reports its decision to Parliament which will then debate and vote on the Supply Bill (See Supply Bill). After the Bill is assented to by the President, the Supply Act authorises the Government to withdraw monies from the Consolidated and Development Funds to meet its expenditure as contained in the approved estimates. S.O. 87 and Art 148 of the CRS.

  Committee of the Whole Parliament   A Committee comprising all Members of the House, chaired by the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. For example, when a Bill has been read a second time, a motion may be moved, “That Parliament will immediately resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill”. If this motion is agreed to, the Speaker leaves his chair to occupy the extreme right seat at the Clerk’s Table as the Chairman of the Committee. The Serjeant-at-Arms will remove the mace from the Table of the House and place it on the brackets below to signify that the House now sits as a Committee. When the Committee has completed its deliberations, the Chairman returns to the Speaker’s chair and reassumes his position as Speaker or Deputy Speaker. The mace is returned to the top of the Table and the House resumes its sitting. The Minister in charge of the Bill then reports to the House and the Bill may proceed to its Third Reading. S.Os. 8(5), 43 and 71.
  Consequential Amendment   An Amendment Bill that amends a principal Act may affect provisions in other Acts. An amendment made to a clause in a Bill may also affect other provisions in the same Bill. Amendments provided for in a Bill to amend affected provisions in other Acts, or amendments to a Bill which are of a purely drafting nature arising out of amendments made to the same Bill in Committee, are called consequential amendments.  
  Consolidated Fund   The Consolidated Fund is analogous to a bank account held by the Government. Subject to any law, the revenues of Singapore are paid into this fund and out of which Government expenditures are made. Arts 145 and 146 of the CRS.
  Constituency   It is a defined geographical area of which the electorate is represented by a seat (in a single-member constituency) or seats (in a group representation constituency) in the House. The boundaries of a constituency are drawn up by an Electoral Boundaries Review Committee. Arts 39 and 39A of the CRS.  
  Constitution of the Republic of Singapore   The supreme law of Singapore. It lays down the country’s political framework and contains provisions including those relating to fundamental liberties, citizenship and the public service. The Constitution may be amended by a law enacted by Parliament. At least two-thirds of the total number of elected Members in the House must vote for the amendment before it can be passed.
  Contingencies Fund   It is created by law to meet any urgent and unforeseen need for funds by the Government not provided for or not sufficiently provided for in the Supply Act for the financial year. Art 148C of the CRS.  


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