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Second Reading Speech by Law Minister K Shanmugam on the Statutes (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill
Ministry of LawJan 18, 2012 15:37 SGT
Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a second time.”
Sir, there are 33 operative clauses in this Statutes (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill.
I will highlight only the key amendments.
Appeals from statutory tribunals
Clauses 2 to 6 gives or provides for the procedure for the Rules of Court to prescribe a process for governing appeals from certain statutory tribunals.
These appeals now proceed as district court appeals, and with the amendments, these appeals will proceed by way of originating summons, which is a simpler procedure.
The tribunals affected are:
(a) the Commissioner of Labour, in respect of his decisions under the Employment Act and the Work Injury Compensation Act;
(b) the Goods and Services Tax Board of Review;
(c) the Income Tax Board of Review; and
(d) the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents.
Quorums of statutory boards
Clauses 7 to 10 deal with quorums required for meetings of certain statutory boards, to bring them in line with the quorums required for other statutory boards.
The revised quorums require one-third of the total number of members on the board, or the current quorum, whichever is higher.
The affected statutory boards are:
(a) the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority;
(b) the Energy Market Authority of Singapore;
(c) the Singapore Medical Council; and
(d) the National Environment Agency.
Disclosure of information under the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Act
Clause 15 amends the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Act. It provides for information to be supplied under the Act or the Chemical Weapons Convention to be disclosed for national security purposes.
Powers of forensic pathologists in coroner’s inquiries
Next, Clause 19, relating to the Coroners Act 2010. It enhances the powers of forensic pathologists. It enables them to more effectively investigate causes of death.
Forensic pathologists will now be able to obtain information, data, relating to the medical treatment or care of the deceased which are in the possession of a medical or healthcare professional.
They will also be able to obtain medical records of the deceased from the National Registry of Diseases.
Reporting of suspicious transactions
Clause 20 relates to the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.
The main amendment is to section 39, to clarify that the obligation to report suspicious transactions section includes attempted transactions.
This amendment arises from Recommendation 13 of the Financial Action Task Force, that’s an intergovernmental body which develops and promotes policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
The amendment to section 39 will put beyond doubt Singapore’s full compliance with Recommendation 13.
Remand of accused persons and granting of bail under criminal procedure
Next, clause 21. This amends the Criminal Procedure Code 2010, and there are two main amendments.
The first relates to the court’s discretion to grant bail.
The amendments provide for the courts to grant bail in all cases except those where the accused person is charged with an offence punishable by death or life imprisonment.
In such cases where the accused person is charged with an offence punishable by death or life imprisonment and also an alternative punishment, the court can also grant bail if the accused person is to be tried in the Subordinate Courts.
The second main amendment refines the Subordinate Courts’ power to remand accused persons.
Currently, a Magistrate can only remand an accused person for eight days at a time. There is no similar limit for the District Courts.
We have received feedback from the Law Society that this does not work well.
An accused person who is in remand pending trial must be brought before the court every eight days even though there are no updates to give to the court.
This affects the Magistrates’ Arrest Cases, as well as committal and transmission cases, which are mentioned before Magistrates.
With the amendments, there will no longer be a distinction between a Magistrate’s Court and a District Court with regard to remand.
The distinction will be between cases where investigations are ongoing, and cases where investigations are complete.
Where investigations are ongoing, an accused person can only be remanded for eight days at a time and must be brought before the court again if further remand is sought.
This ensures that investigations are completed in good time and where applicable, bail can be offered as soon as possible after investigations are complete.
Once investigations are complete, the accused person will be remanded pending the resolution of his case and if he is refused bail or cannot raise bail.
At this point, no reason to require that he can be remanded only for eight days at a time.
Sections 174 and 238 are to be amended accordingly, and that will allow more efficient management of cases by the courts.
Notices of land acquisition
Clause 23 amends the Land Acquisition Act. It is to primarily to change the mode by which interested persons are notified in relation to land acquisitions.
Section 8(1) requires the Collector to notify interested persons by physically posting notices at or near the land to be acquired.
The feedback is that owners prefer not to have this process.
So we propose replacing that mode with a new requirement to publish notices in at least four daily local newspapers in each of the four official languages, which is more effective and reaches a larger audience.
This, of course, is in addition to other existing means of notification, which include notification in the Gazette, and sending registered letters to known interested parties.
Reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders
Clause 26 clarifies and updates the provisions of the Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act.
First, the definition of “maintenance order” is expanded to allow the reciprocal enforcement of lump sum maintenance orders, in addition to orders for periodic payments, and that would better reflect the practice of local and foreign courts in awarding maintenance.
The other amendments refine the scope and operation of the Act so as to better reflect how it operates in practice.
One example is the removal of a provision that deems an applicant for maintenance as a legal custodian of the child.
This deeming provision was originally taken from the United Kingdom. It is irrelevant in our local context because legal custody is not a pre-requisite for ordering maintenance.
Investment powers of trustees
Clauses 33 and 34 relate to the Public Trustee Act, as well as the Trustees Act.
They clarify that the Public Trustee, and trustees generally, can make specific investments that they were empowered to make before section 4(1) of the Trustees Act was amended in 2004. These amendments conferred upon the trustees a broad general power of investment.
Finally, there are various housekeeping amendments have been made to various Acts, to improve the readability and administration of existing provisions and to repeal obsolete provisions.
Sir, I beg to move.