Parliamentary quorum: 91 MPs dwindled to less than 22 MPs

By S Y Lee and Leong Sze Hian

We refer to the Clerk of Parliament’s reply “Lack of quorum: Clerk of Parliament replies” (Straits Times Forum, Jul 17) to Mr Leong Kok Seng’s letter (“Questions over lack of quorum” (Jul 14).

91 MPs attendances?

The letter by Clerk of Parliament, Ms Ng Sheau Jiuan states that the sitting on 7 July was attended by 91 MPs and attendances are recorded in the Official Reports and that the Votes and Proceedings are available on the Parliament website.

91 MPs dropped to less than 22? 

It is recorded that when amendments to the Radiation Protection Act and the Copyright Act were to be passed on 7 July, Nominated Member of Parliament, Eugene Tan observed that there was no quorum, or the required number of MPs present in the House, as required by the Constitution.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Charles Chong, concurred with Mr Tan that the House was one member short of a quorum.

A quorum is one-quarter of the total of 87 elected MPs. That is, 22 MPs.

Does it mean that the number of MPs dwindled down from the “91 MPs and attendances recorded in the Official Reports” on that day, to less than 22 MPs, such that 2 of the Bills almost or could not be passed due to a lack of quorum?

Evasion to answer the questions?

The Clerk of Parliament’s subject reply in our view, may simply have evaded the questions asked by Mr Leong Kok Seng, and more importantly, anyone reading the reply, without the benefit of reading the letter of 14 July or the news report of 8 July, may be non the wiser as to the fact that 2 bills could or almost could not be passed due to a lack of quorum.

Misleading the public?

By saying just that “When the votes on the Bills that were passed on July 7 were taken at the sitting, the quorum was met” – it may at best be not just not answering the questions, but arguably, misleading to the public as well.

Breakdown of the different MPs?

It may also be misleading too from the perspective that as we understand it, the 91 recorded attendances may include the NMPs and NCMPs as well.  So, how many elected MPs were actually in attendance or absent out of the 21 MPs who were present? How many from the various political parties? Any breakdown?

How many sought permission?

It is also said that MPs have to seek the Speaker’s permission in writing to be absent from a sitting and to inform the party Whip if they are unable to attend Parliament on time or have to leave early.

Can we have the statistics as to how many MPs have sought “the Speaker’s permission in writing to be absent from a sitting” for how many times, and how many have informed the party Whip if they are unable to attend Parliament on time or have to leave early”?

Did any of the at least 69 MPs (91 attendances recorded – 22 required for quorum) who apparently left early, inform the party Whip (that) they have to leave early?

How often MPs don’t speak at all? Former Ministers speaking only once?

By the way, since we are on the subject of Parliamentary attendances, how about giving the statistics as to how often MPs spoke in Parliament?

For example, I searched the Parliamentary records for Former Minister for National Development, Mah Bow Tan for the Parliamentary sittings of the current 12th Parliament, since the last general elections in 2011 until today, only one results was found.  Another search was made on Former Minister for Home Affairs, Wong Kan Seng and also only one result was found. Both former ministers spoke on the motion for the Population White Paper of 6.9 million residents by 2030.

So, does this mean that both former ministers did not say anything in Parliament for the past 2 years and 9 months apart from voicing their support for the Population White Paper?

NCMP spoke 82 times?

For the purpose of comparision, I searched “Lina Chiam” which returned 82 results, for the same period.