How Parliament Works
Singapore’s Parliament functions by making laws, controlling the state's finances and acting as a check on the government.
The only time that Parliament is presided by the President of Singapore is at the Opening of Parliament, and on this occasion, the Head of State will outline the challenges ahead for the new government.
The other sessions of Parliament are presided by the Speaker who enforces the rules for the orderly conduct of parliamentary business as prescribed in the Standing Orders of Parliament.
Before any law is passed, it is first introduced in Parliament as a Bill, usually by a Minister on behalf of the Government, although any Member of the House can introduce a Bill known as a Private Member's Bill. At the Second Reading, the proposed law is debated, before it goes to a Third Reading for closer examination before a law comes into being.
Members of Parliament (MPs) act as a bridge between the community and the government by ensuring that the concerns of their constituents are heard in Parliament. This is through Question Time at the start of each sitting and also during debates.
The first Parliament of Singapore convened in 1965 and is modeled on the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy where Members of Parliament are elected by registered voters during General Elections held every five years. In the current 13th Parliament, there are 89 MPs chosen in the 11 September 2015 General Election, representing either a Single Member Constituency (SMC) or a Group Representation Constituency (GRC).
There are seats for Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs). The Constitution provides for the appointment of up to three NCMPs who stood but did not win by popular vote in a general election.
Also sitting in Parliament are Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs), who serve for a term of two and a half years and are appointed by the President of Singapore on the recommendation of a Special Select Committee of Parliament chaired by the Speaker. NMPs are not connected to any political parties and are appointed to ensure a wide representation of community views in Parliament.
The Singapore Parliament can meet at any time of the year.
The date of the sitting can be specifically named by Parliament upon its adjournment or, if no date is fixed, the next session will be announced later by the Speaker.
Roles and Duties
Madam Halimah Yacob
The Speaker of Parliament takes charge of the administration of Parliament and its secretariat, and presides over parliamentary sittings.
During debates in the House, the Speaker’s role includes regulating and enforcing the rules of debate in the House, and putting the question for the House to debate on and vote.
The Speaker must remain impartial and fair to all MPs and decides who has the right to speak.
Although the Speaker does not take part in the debates, being an elected Member of Parliament, the Speaker can abstain, or vote for/ against a motion.
Madam Halimah Yacob was elected Speaker of Parliament on 14 January 2013. She is Singapore’s first female Speaker of Parliament. Madam Halimah is also the MP for MARSILING-YEW TEE GRC
Ms Grace Fu
The Leader of the House is responsible for the arrangement of government business and the legislative programme of Parliament. She also proposes appropriate actions to be taken on any procedural matters arising in Parliament.
The Leader of the House is tasked with moving procedural motions relating to the business of the House during sittings, such as extending the time of sittings beyond the usual time as set out in the Standing Orders.
The position is currently held by Ms Grace Fu, who is the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Leader of the House.
Singapore law does not provide for an official Leader of the Opposition, however there is the title - unofficial Leader of the Opposition - given to the MP who is the leader of the largest opposition party which is able and prepared to assume office if the government resigns.
A Party Whip is an official in a political party whose task is to ensure party discipline in a legislature.
In carrying out his duties, the Whip lists down the speakers for each item of business and estimates the time required so that everything can be completed within schedule.
The Whip also ensures that there are always sufficient party members in the Chamber to support the party's position and that MPs vote according to the party's line. Occasionally, he may "lift the whip" and allow MPs to vote according to their conscience.