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Parliamentary Glossary
  


 
 
 

 

 

 

 

  Parliamentary Glossary  
 

 
 
Term   Definition  
  Parliament   An assembly of citizens, elected or appointed, to represent the people with the primary function of passing laws for the country. The legislature consists of the President and Parliament.18 The term “Parliament” also refers to each successive body of Members elected at the general election, for example, the First Parliament (1965 - 1968), the Second Parliament (1968 - 1972), and the Third Parliament (1972 - 1976). Each term of Parliament may have several sessions, punctuated by prorogations and recesses. The maximum term of a Parliament is five years from the date of its first sitting. (See also Prorogation of Parliament, Recess and Session)

18The word Parliament is derived from the French word “parler” which means “to speak”.
 
  Parliamentary Election   A process for electing citizens to Parliament. It can take the form of a general election or by-election. A general election is held upon the dissolution of Parliament, and a by-election may be held during a term of Parliament when a seat becomes vacant. Parliamentary elections are held on a direct, one-man-one-vote basis and an elected Member gains his seat in Parliament by winning the greatest number of the votes cast in a “first-past-the-post” system. (See also Dissolution of Parliament and Group Representation Constituency)  
  Parliamentary Paper   A document formally presented to the House pursuant to law or otherwise for the information and use of Members. Parliamentary papers may be broadly divided into six categories: (a) command papers, (b) parliament papers, (c) subsidiary legislation, (d) statute papers, (e) miscellaneous papers and (f) papers presented by the Presidential Council for Minority Rights. Parliamentary papers may be presented by Ministers on behalf of the Government or by the Speaker or Chairman of a Select Committee. (See also Command Paper, Blue Book, Green Paper and White Paper) S.O. 29.  
  Parliamentary Privilege   Words spoken in the course of parliamentary proceedings are privileged, that is, immune from any action in the courts. This privilege allows Members to speak freely and frankly without fear of legal consequences. Breach of this privilege can render a Member liable to a reprimand, fine, suspension or imprisonment, as may be recommended by the Committee of Privileges. The House also has the power to suspend the privilege and immunity of a Member in respect of liability in civil proceedings. Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act (Cap. 217).  
  Parliamentary Reporter   A shorthand writer who records verbatim the proceedings of the House and Select Committees. Also known as a Verbatim Reporter, the department is headed by the Chief Reporter and Editor. (See also Hansard and Official Report)
 
  Parliamentary Secretary   A Parliamentary Secretary in a ministry may be appointed from among Members of Parliament to assist Ministers in the discharge of their duties and functions. (See also Minister and Minister of State) Art 31 of the CRS.  
  Passage of a Bill   In order to be passed by Parliament, a Bill has to go through a number of stages (Click here):

(a) First Reading: This is a formal stage with no debate. The Bill is introduced by the Member in charge.19 He would read out the long title of the Bill. The Clerk at the Table then reads out its short title. The Bill is then gazetted, after which seven days must lapse before the Second Reading of the Bill can be taken. (See also Bill and Titles of a Bill);

(b) Second Reading: The principles of a Bill are debated at its Second Reading. A vote is taken as to whether the Bill should be read a second time. If agreed to, the short title is again read out by the Clerk and the Bill moves on to the Committee stage. If the Second Reading of the Bill is not agreed to, the Bill is considered to be negatived. (See also “on this day six months”);

(c) Committee Stage: The details of a Bill are scrutinised by either the Committee of the whole Parliament or by a Select Committee. Here, it is considered in detail, clause by clause. A Select Committee may invite representations or views from the public. Any amendment to the Bill or introduction of new clauses will be considered and voted on at this stage. The final form of the Bill is presented to Parliament in the report stage. (See also Committal of Bill);

(d) Report Stage: The Bill is reported to the House. If reported from the Committee of the whole Parliament, the Minister in charge of the Bill states that it has been considered in Committee and agreed to with, or without, amendments. If the Bill was referred to a Select Committee, the Committee will table its report to Parliament. The report will contain the Select Committee’s recommendations for amendments to the Bill, if any. The Bill will proceed for its Third Reading, unless recommitted to a Committee of the whole Parliament for further amendments. (See also Recommittal of a Bill);

(e) Third Reading: The procedure is the same as for the Second Reading, though debate at this stage is more limited, it being confined to the actual contents of the Bill. Amendments for the correction of errors or oversights may be proposed, but amendments of a material character cannot be introduced. A vote is then taken for the Third Reading of the Bill. If agreed to, the short title of the Bill is read a third time by the Clerk, and the Bill is deemed to have been passed by the House. If the Third Reading of the Bill is not agreed to, the Bill is considered to have been negatived.

(f) Consideration by the Presidential Council for Minority Rights: Most Bills are then referred to the Presidential Council for Minority Rights, which determines if the provisions of the Bill contain any differentiating measures affecting any racial or religious community in Singapore. If the Presidential Council gives an adverse report, Parliament can either amend the affected provisions (after which the amended Bill should be referred back to the Presidential Council) or pass a resolution that the Bill be presented to the President for his assent despite the adverse report. Such a resolution must be supported by not less than two-thirds of all Members of Parliament. (See also Presidential Council for Minority Right);

(g) President’s Assent: The Bill is then sent to the President for his assent. Once it has received the President’s assent, it becomes an Act of Parliament. The Act is then published in the Government Gazette. Arts 77 and 78 of the CRS and S.O. 81.

19 In the case of a Government Bill, he would be the Minister responsible for the Bill.
 
  Permanent Secretary   The Permanent Secretary is a public officer appointed by the President to head a ministry. He takes charge of the implementation of policies and programmes of his ministry, under the general direction and control of the Minister responsible. Art 34 of the CRS.  
  Personal Explanation   A short statement by a Member to explain, excuse, justify or apologise for his conduct with regard to a particular question or occasion, or to correct an alleged misrepresentation. No debate takes place on the explanation. Permission to make a personal explanation must be obtained from the Speaker. S.O. 23.  
  Personal Pecuniary Interest   When rising to speak, a Member is required to declare the extent of any direct personal pecuniary interest which he has in the matter under discussion. This rule gives the House the opportunity to determine whether the Member is promoting the public interest or merely advancing his own. A Member cannot vote on any subject in which he has a direct personal pecuniary interest. S.32 of the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act (Cap. 217) and S.O. 63.
 
  Petition   A Member may interrupt another Member’s speech briefly to seek clarification, provided the Member speaking is willing to give way and allow the clarification to be made. A Member may also explain some part of his speech which has been misunderstood or misinterpreted. S.Os. 45(4), 47(4) and 49.
 
  Point of Clarification   A Member may interrupt another Member’s speech briefly to seek clarification, provided the Member speaking is willing to give way and allow the clarification to be made. A Member may also explain some part of his speech which has been misunderstood or misinterpreted. S.Os. 45(4), 47(4) and 49.  
  Point of Order   During a sitting, any Member may bring to the Speaker’s immediate notice any breach of order or rules of the House. A Member is entitled in such cases to interrupt the proceedings by rising and saying, “On a point of order, Mr Speaker” and briefly state his point of order. No speeches are allowed. S.O. 49.

 
  President of Singapore (President)   He is the Head of State. The President is elected by the electorate and holds certain veto powers meant to safeguard the financial reserves of the country. He also ensures the integrity of the public service, and acts as a check on certain powers of the Government. In exercising these functions, the President is advised by a Council of Presidential Advisers. The President’s term is for six years. Arts 17, 20 and 21 of the CRS.
 
  President's Address   When Parliament opens after a dissolution or prorogation, the President will deliver his Address on behalf of the Government in the House. The President’s Address sets out the proposed direction, policies and programmes of the Government. Following the Address, a motion will be moved to express thanks to the President for his Address. Five sitting days are allotted for the debate on this motion. The debate provides the opportunity for Members to review and debate the Government’s proposed programmes and policies as contained in the Address. (See also Address of Thanks) Art 62 of the CRS and S.O. 14.  
  President’s Assent   After a Bill is passed by Parliament, it is sent to the President for his assent. The assent means that the President agrees with Parliament in passing the Bill. With the President's assent, the Bill becomes law. Except for certain Bills, the President will act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet when exercising this power. (See also Passage of a Bill) Art 58 of the CRS.
 
  President's Recommendation   The Member in charge of certain Bills or amendments to Bills must state that the recommendation from the President has been given before introducing them in Parliament. Examples of such Bills or amendments are those which provide for the borrowing of money or giving of guarantees by the Government; and the custody, charging of money on, payment into or receipt of money on account of the Consolidated Fund. Art 59 of the CRS and S.O. 65.  
  Presidential Council for Minority Rights   A Council appointed by the President to consider and report on matters affecting persons of any racial or religious community in Singapore, that may be referred to it by Parliament or the Government. It also scrutinises Bills and subsidiary legislation and makes a report to the Speaker stating whether there is any differentiating measure in a Bill or subsidiary legislation which affects any racial or religious community. In the case of a Bill, if the Council’s report is adverse, the Bill will be referred back to Parliament for further consideration. In the case of subsidiary legislation, the affected provisions must be revoked or amended by the Minister, or confirmed by Parliament within six months of the report.

The Council scrutinises all legislation except Money Bills, Bills affecting the defence, national security or public safety of Singapore and Bills certified by the Prime Minister to be urgent. Members of the Council are appointed either for life (permanent members) or for fixed terms of three years. (See also Passage of a Bill) Arts 68, 69 and 77 of the CRS.

 
  Press Gallery   Media reporters, who come under the general definition of strangers, are also admitted to witness and report on parliamentary proceedings. They are accommodated in that section of the House known as the Press Gallery.  
  Prime Minister   The Prime Minister and other Cabinet members are accountable to the House. In the Cabinet system of Government, he is considered primus inter pares, or first among equals. The Cabinet continues to hold office during the dissolution of Parliament until a new Cabinet is sworn in. (See also Art 25 of the CRS.)
 
  Private Bill   A Bill which promotes the interests of some particular person, association or corporate body. Notice must be given by not less than three successive publications of the Bill in the Government Gazette before a Member can seek leave of the House to introduce the Bill. It has to contain a clause saving the rights of the President, the State and all other parties, except those mentioned in the Bill.

After its Second Reading, the Bill must be referred to a Select Committee, which will hear the views of any affected party who has presented a petition to Parliament on the Bill. This is to ensure that the Bill prejudices no private right or interest, except where justified therein.

All expenses incurred in the printing and publication of the Bill shall be paid by the promoters. (See also Government Bill) S.O. 85.

 
  Privilege   (See Parliamentary Privilege) .
 
  Progress, Motion to Report   In a Committee of the whole Parliament, a Member may move a motion to report progress and ask leave for the Committee to sit again for the purpose of adjourning the debate to a later time or sitting day. S.O. 25.  
  Prorogation of Parliament   The termination of a session of Parliament. The President prorogues Parliament by Proclamation in the Government Gazette. On prorogation and until the opening of the new session, Parliament is said to be in recess. All proceedings pending at the time of prorogation are brought to a close. Bills not passed are deemed to have lapsed and must be reintroduced at a new session in order to be considered. (See also Dissolution of Parliament, Recess and Opening of Parliament) Art 65 of the CRS.  
  Public Accounts Committee   A sessional Select Committee which examines various accounts of the Government showing the appropriation of funds granted by Parliament to meet the public expenditure, as well as other accounts laid before Parliament together with the Auditor-General’s Report. The Committee is assisted by the Auditor-General and has powers to send for witnesses, papers and records. (See also Select Committee) S.O. 96(2).  
  Public Gallery   (See Strangers’ Gallery)
 
  Public Bill   IA Bill dealing with public general interests. Most legislation passed by the House are public Bills.
 
  Public Petitions Committee   A sessional Select Committee that deals with public petitions presented to the House. Its function is not to consider the merits of a petition but to summarise its contents in a report to the House. (See also Petition and Select Committees) S.O. 96(6).  
  Putting the Question   All motions proposed for decision in the House are put by the Chair to the House in the form of a question, for a vote to be taken. The process begins with a Member moving a motion and explaining to the House its rationale and objectives. The Chair then reads out the terms of the motion and proposes it to the House. This signals the start of the debate on the motion. At the end of debate on the motion, the Chair will put the question and take a vote. (See also Chair, Motion, Question and Collection of Voices)  


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