Singapore Parliament Back in Business: Multiple Legal Reforms on the Agenda

Posted by Reading Time: 6 minutes

By Charles Small

Parliament_House_SingaporeSINGAPORE – On its first day back in business, January 19, 2015, Singapore’s Parliament has approved the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill and the Pawnbrokers Bill on second readings, and saw the introduction of the Community Disputes, Deep Seabed Mining, Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption), and MediShield Life Scheme Bills. What follows below is a snapshot of each of these important legal developments.

Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill Passed

The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill, No. 41 of 2014, amends the 2004 Industrial Relations Act, 2012’s Retirement and Re-employment Act, and 2004’s Trade Unions Act. The bill seeks to allow majority non-executive employee trade unions (rank and file trade unions) to represent executive employees for collective bargaining where possible, and extend the areas in which a rank and file trade union may represent executive employees on an individual basis, including in re-employment disputes. The amendments define an executive employee as one in a managerial or executive position, and a non-executive as any other.

The amendments remove references to the “Minister for Finance”, replacing them with references to the “Minister charged with the responsibility for human resource management in the Civil Service”. It enlarges the employment panel for enabling courts to act in accordance with the Act from 10 to 15 people, at least seven of whom would be appointed by the relevant Minister for a period of two years, rather than one.

Pawnbrokers Bill Passed

The approval of Bill No. 42 of 2014 repeals and re-enacts the Pawnbrokers Act. The bill makes it an offence to carry out the business of pawnbroking in Singapore without a license or relevant waiver. Licenses may be granted to companies incorporated in Singapore upon receipt of applications made to the Registrar of Pawnbrokers, accompanied by a fee payment. Licenses take effect from the day they are granted, and remain valid until December 31 of the year granted, or another date. Licenses may be renewed no later than one month from the date of expiry. More than one license may be granted to one person.

Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill Introduced

Bill No. 1 of 2015 would regulate the supply and consumption of liquor, imposing a ban on consumption in public places between 22:30 and 07:00. It grants the relevant Minister the power to prohibit consumption of liquor in public places during any period, which may vary according to area or premise. The Minister could declare an area a “Liquor Control Zone”, in which individuals may be banned from entering, and penalties imposed may reach up to 50 percent more than in other areas.

Those found consuming liquor in any public place during the prescribed no-public drinking period could face a fine of up to SG$1,000. Repeat offenders would face a fine of up to SG$2,000, three months’ imprisonment, or both. It also sets out fines of fines of up to SG$1,000, or imprisonment for up to one month, or both for those found drunk and incapable of taking care of themselves in a public place, rising to SG$2,000, or up to three months’ imprisonment, or both for repeat offenders. A drunk individual is one defined as having noticeably affected speech, balance, coordination or behavior, when it is reasonable to believe that this is due to having consumed liquor.

The bill also restricts unlicensed supply of liquor to other persons outside of religious ceremonies, delivery under contract of purchase, an emergency, or other situations. Additionally, the law regulates the procedures for licensing a premises, obligations of the licensee, and the procedures for temporary or permanent closure of an establishment. A Liquor Appeal Board will hear any appeals that may arise. Retail sale hours for liquor to be taken off the premises would end at 22:30, and extensions would be granted on a case-by-case basis.

MediShield Life Scheme Bill Introduced

The introduced MediShield Life Scheme Bill, No. 3 of 2015, would establish the scheme for the purpose of paying the whole or part of costs incurred by an insured person for approved medical treatment or services. The scheme would be administered by the Central Provident Fund Board and would be financed through the MediShield Life Fund. It would apply to every citizen or permanent resident of Singapore. Parents would pay for the insurance of insured persons under the age of 21.

Under the proposals, civil servants in the Ministry of Health and Central Provident Fund Board would be able to search government databases to check for eligibility for subsidies on premiums. Under the scheme, those with pre-existing medical conditions would be subject to “premium loading”, paying an additional premium.

Related-Reading-Icon-Asean Link RELATED: Changes to Singapore Transfer Pricing Guidelines

Deep Seabed Mining Bill Introduced

Those operating in the extractive industries will be keeping a keen eye on the Deep Seabed Mining Bill, No. 2 of 2015. The bill seeks to regulate exploration and exploitation of resources by persons sponsored by Singapore, fulfill Singapore’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and its implementing agreements, and protect the marine environment from the harmful effects of such exploration. It creates a licensing system for deep seabed mining and related matters, and would make it obligatory for a Singaporean citizen or entity incorporated, formed, or established in Singapore to obtain a license to explore for or exploit any such maritime resources.


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