President’s recommendation not sought for amendments proposed by Workers’ Party, as Govt assessed it cannot be supported

President’s recommendation not sought for amendments proposed by Workers’ Party, as Govt assessed it cannot be supported

SINGAPORE — The amendments put forth by two Workers’ Party Members of Parliament on a bill, were not put forth to the Singapore President for her consideration due to the alleged short time given and that the Government had assessed that the amendments could not be supported.

This was said by Leader of the House Indranee Rajah in Parliament on Tuesday (8 Nov) during the passing of the Carbon Pricing (Amendment) Bill.

The bill will see the increase of Singapore’s carbon tax to S$25 per tonne for greenhouse gas emissions in 2024 and 2025, and S$45 per tonne for greenhouse gas emissions in 2026 and beyond. This will set Singapore on a trajectory to reach between S$50 and S$80 per tonne by 2030.

In the passing of the bill, Speaker of Parliament, Tan Chuan Jin said, “There are 12 amendments standing in the name of Mr Leon Perera as indicated in the order paper supplement, the Minister for Finance has signified that a President recommendation under Article 59(2) of the Constitution is required for amendments 1 to 3 and 8 to 12.”

Mr Tan then asked, “Do these amendments have the recommendation of the President?”

In response, Ms Indranee walked to the podium and said, “No, Sir.”

“As the President’s recommendation is not forthcoming for amendments 1 to 3 and 8 to 12 standing in Mr Leon Perera’s name as indicated in the order paper supplement. These amendments cannot be moved.” said Mr Tan.

President’s Recommendation Was Not Sought

Mr Leon Perera, Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC, stood and said, “On a point of order, may I pose some questions to the Honourable Minister, the Leader of the House, on the process surrounding how the President was approached and the whole recommendation was well sought.”

He added, “So specifically, what I would like to ask is when was the concurrence of the President sought for my amendments? And is it correct to say that the advice of the President was sought, but at the same time that advice could only be given from the office of the President based on the advice of the relevant minister, on the advice of Cabinet.”

Article 59(2) of the Singapore Constitution provides that the recommendation of the President is required for a bill or an amendment that makes provision, whether directly or indirectly, for one of the stated financial matters.

Ms Indranee noted that such financial matters would include, for example, increasing or reducing taxes.

She also pointed out that it is the duty of the Minister for Finance to inform the Speaker before moving amendments to a bill whether the recommendations of the President is required by law.

This was done in this instance, by way of notification to Parliament, which was circulated by way of notice paper to all members including Mr Leon Perera and the Workers Party.

Claiming that the notice of amendment only came in on Wednesday, Ms Indranee said the government only had Thursday and Friday to look at the amendments and assess to see whether or not such amendments had any fiscal implications.

“I must say I do find that when you give government less than 48 hours notice, and not to mention the fact that there was no follow up on the part of the Workers Party even to find out whether anything would be done in this respect, I, I have to say that I, you know, I find that it’s somewhat let us put it this way you give less than 48 hours and somebody has to do the running for you.” said Ms Indranee.

She then added, “But in any event, the president’s recommendation is not given for the member’s amendments. This is because the government has assessed whether the amendments in question, that is, amendments 1 to 3 and 8 to 12 could not be supported on the merits. We determined that they could not be supported for the reasons explained earlier by my colleagues in the second reading debate.”

“And as the amendments could not be supported, they were not put forward to the President for the President’s recommendation.”

Ms Indranee explains that this is perfectly in order as the President would act in accordance with the government’s advice in giving or not giving the required recommendation.

“It is not unique to us. It is a long established feature of Westminster parliaments that the government of the day has the sole right and responsibility to initiate financial legislation. The government may therefore also take the decision not to put forward amendments with financial implications for the recommendation.” said Ms Indranee.

Standing to clarify the alleged delay in the submission of amendments, Mr Perera noted that he and Ms He Tingru had filed the amendments with the Clerk of Parliament on Monday and that they received a notification that the President’s recommendation was necessary on Saturday at about 1 p.m.

Leader of Opposition, Pritam Singh also stood to note that there was no intention to give the government very little time to respond.

“I think this is a novel process insofar as at least my time in the House has been concerned. I don’t think this particular memo, such a memo has come up.”

“I think the intention was to make sure we file on time and per standing orders, which we did. And then after on the Saturday after, Mr Perera received a note from the Clerk of Parliament, I think he followed up with the Clerk of Parliament with a list of questions as to procedure and so forth.” said Mr Singh.

“So there was no intention to try and give the government very little time to respond or anything of that sort. I just thought I have to I ought to put that on the record. ”
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