Bill interrupted for want of enough MPs

SINGAPORE - Twice yesterday, the Parliament sitting was interrupted because too few members were present in the House to pass two Bills.

A quorum of one-quarter of the total of 87 elected MPs, excluding the Speaker, is needed for a Bill to be passed, as specified under the Constitution.

But Nominated MP Eugene Tan, a constitutional and administrative law professor, noticed that, both times, the House did not have a quorum.

He said: "I think, in order for this Bill not to be challenged on the basis that it's not constitutionally passed, can I just clarify that we do have a quorum?''

He first made the point at about 5.30pm, shortly after a 20-minute break and during the debate on an amendment to the Radiation Protection Act.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Charles Chong then noted that the House was one member short of a quorum.

The division bell was rung to summon other MPs, who streamed into the Chamber to take their seats after a few minutes. The Bill was passed by a voice vote, with a quorum.

The second delay came around 7.10pm, when Assoc Prof Tan raised the same point of order, right before an amendment to the Copyright Act was to be passed.

The House was again one short of a quorum.

But instead of having MPs return again, Parliament was adjourned 20 minutes early at the request of Ng Eng Hen, who is Leader of the House.

This means the Copyright (Amendment) Bill will be put to the vote when Parliament sits today.

Prof Tan also pointed out the lack of a quorum twice in 2012.


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