Second reading speech on Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Bill & Public Service Commission (Amendment) Bill
16 Jul 2007 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
SECOND READING SPEECH OF CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE (AMENDMENT) BILL 2007 BY DPM JAYAKUMAR ON 16 JULY 2007
Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, that the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill makes several amendments to the Constitution. The main amendment is to make changes to the composition of the Legal Service Commission (LSC) as well as to enhance and institutionalize the personnel management system of the Singapore Legal Service. There are three other amendments: (1) to make provision for alternate members on the Council of Presidential Advisers to act in place of members who are temporarily unable to take part in Council proceedings; (2) to shorten the oaths of office for the Prime Minister, Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries; and (3) To provide that Judicial Commissioners who are appointed to hear specific cases need not be subjected to repeated oath taking. Some of these amendments affect the President’s discretionary powers, though not adversely. The President has been consulted on them, and supports them
The Legal Service Commission and Personnel management system of the Singapore Legal Service
- Mr Speaker, Sir, let me first deal with the amendments pertaining to the changes to the Legal Service Commission and to the personnel management system of the Singapore Legal Service.
- Sir, these amendments are a follow up to my Statement to this House on 3 April 2006, when I announced a review of the personnel management framework for the Singapore Legal Service. As I then explained, our Legal Service personnel management system was inherited from the British. The Constitutional framework for the Legal Service has remained largely unchanged since Singapore’s Independence, even though the demands on legal services have changed radically. We need to strengthen the personnel management system to make it more robust as well as more responsive to the new challenges in managing talent and personnel in the expanded Legal Service.
- As I said in my Ministerial statement last year: “..The Government has discussed with the outgoing Chief Justice Yong Pung How, the incoming Chief Justice as well as the next Attorney General, on how we can build on this hard won reputation. They are all agreed that the key is to have the right people in our judiciary and legal service. It is vital that we maintain a continuing inflow of talent and attract the best and promising law graduates to the Legal Service. They are also unanimous that, to achieve this, we need to restructure the Legal Service Commission (LSC) and update our personnel management system. We also need a more systematic talent management system.”
- As a follow-up, the LSC appointed the Legal Service Personnel Management Review Panel on 20 April 2006 chaired by Justice Lee Seiu Kin, to conduct a comprehensive review. The Panel made several recommendations on the management and development of talent in the Singapore Legal Service and these recommendations are now being implemented.
- The LSC sits at the apex of the personnel management system for the Singapore Legal Service. It is vested with the Constitutional authority to recruit, promote and discipline all legal service officers. Currently the LSC comprises the Chief Justice, the Attorney-General, the Chairman of the PSC, a Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by the Chief Justice, and two members of the PSC as nominated by the Chairman of the PSC. In other words they are all members by virtue of the offices that they hold.
- This composition has remained unchanged since Independence. The membership of the LSC will now be widened to provide for the appointment of more members with experience that is relevant to the Singapore Legal Service of today. The LSC will be restructured to include members with a wider range of experience, for example, people who have worked in personnel management or who have knowledge of the legal service or the legal profession. They can be from the private sector, and can include retired judges or retired senior counsel.
- The Chief Justice will continue to be President of the LSC, and the Attorney-General and the Chairman of the PSC will continue as members of the Committee. Article 111 of the Constitution will be amended to provide up to 6 more LSC members, who need not necessarily be Supreme Court Judges or PSC members. The additional members will be nominated by the Prime Minister, Chief Justice and Chairman PSC, respectively. The Prime Minister, Chief Justice and Chairman PSC can each nominate one but not more than 2 additional members for appointment by the President. The President however is not bound by these nominations. His power to veto appointments under Art 22 is expanded to these additional LSC members. In doing so we preserve the President’s safeguard role as regards the integrity of the Singapore public service.
- A significant change is that the Prime Minister will now nominate up to 2 LSC members. Currently, the Prime Minister has no role in the appointment of LSC members. Sir, this change is consistent with the role of Prime Minister in recommending appointments of judges after consulting the CJ. It is also consistent with the role of Prime Minister in recommending appointments to the PSC and his retaining responsibility for the Civil Service of which the Legal Service is a part. Prime Minister will be nominating only 2 out of the 6 nominated LSC members, and his nominations will have to be approved by the President acting in his discretion.
- The Constitution will also be amended to allow personnel boards to be established for the Singapore Legal Service, and for these boards to operate autonomously from the LSC. Under the present personnel management system of the Singapore Legal Service, Personnel Boards have been established by the LSC, but Sir, these Personnel Boards are delegates of the LSC, deriving all powers and functions from the LSC and discharging those powers and functions under LSC’s direction and control. The amendments in the Bill will allow the personnel boards of the Legal Service to evolve to become like the personnel boards for the rest of the Civil Service, but with adaptations because of the smaller number of officers in the Singapore Legal Service. A new Article 111AA will allow the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister, to establish one or more Personnel Boards having charge over different classes of the Legal Service officers. The powers of the LSC will be devolved to the Personnel Boards for Legal Service officers, except the power of dismissal and disciplinary control, and all powers of recruitment and promotion of Legal Service officers of and above a certain threshold grade. Once a Personnel Board is established for a specific class of Legal Service officers, the powers of the LSC will cease to be exercisable with respect to that class of officers, except in an appellate capacity.
- The members of a Personnel Board for Legal Service officers may or may not be members of the LSC. LSC Personnel Board members will be appointed by the President where he agrees with the advice of the LSC. Like the Personnel Boards for other civil servants, the appointment of members of the LSC Personnel Board is also subject to the President’s veto. Political office holders, Members of Parliament and trade unionists will likewise be disqualified from sitting on the LSC Personnel Boards.
- Sir, with the changes to composition of the LSC, and the separately constituted Personnel Board(s) for Legal Service officers, the Secretary to the PSC will also cease to be concurrently the Secretary to the LSC. The LSC can have its own Secretary, who must be a public officer appointed by the President, on the advice of the LSC.
- Arising from these Constitutional amendments, related amendments to the Public Service Commission Act will also be necessary to extend its scope and protection to the LSC and its members and to the Personnel Boards for the Legal Service. I will explain those amendments in greater detail during the Second Reading of the Public Service Commission (Amendment) Bill, which is the second item on the Order Paper.
Council of Presidential Advisers
- Mr Speaker, let me now deal with the amendments to allow for the appointment of alternate members to act in place of members of the Council of Presidential Advisers (“the Council”) who are temporarily unable to take part in any proceedings of the Council.
- The Constitution now provides for the appointment of temporary members where a Council member, for a period of 3 months or more, is unable to take part in the proceedings of the Council for reasons of illness, absence or other reason. This is in Art 37C. The President can appoint a temporary member on the advice of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice or the Chairman of the Public Service Commission (“PSC”), as the case may be.
- Sir, however, this provision to appoint temporary members has practical limitations. It does not apply to periods of absence or illness shorter than 3 months. It also does not address the situation where a Council member cannot participate in Council proceedings in order to avoid any perception of conflict of interest. To address these issues, the President has requested for changes to the Constitution to provide for the appointment of alternate members in place of temporary members. The President was consulted on the changes and he supports these amendments in clauses 4, 5 and 6 of the Bill.
- Article 37C, which today provides for the appointment of temporary members, will be repealed. The Article will be replaced with a new Article allowing the President to appoint 2 alternate members to act in place of any of the Council members, other than the Chairman, who is temporarily prevented from taking part in any proceedings of the Council. The requirement that the temporary disability should be for more than 3 months will be omitted.
- One alternate member will be appointed by the President in his discretion. The other alternate member will be appointed by the President on the nomination of the Prime Minister, after the Prime Minister has consulted with the Chief Justice and the Chairman of the PSC, the latter being the 2 other nominating authorities for the other Council members. The two alternate members will each be appointed for a term of 4 years. Each will be subject to the same disqualifications as for Council members.
- In the event a Council member is temporarily unable to attend at any Council proceedings, whether by illness, absence or any other reason, one of the 2 alternate members appointed can then be selected to act in place of that member. Where a Council member is appointed to act as Chairman of the Council, such as whenever the Chairman of the Council himself is Acting President, an alternate member may also be selected to act in that member’s place.
- The selection as to which alternate member will actually serve at any instance will be made either by the President, the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice or the Chairman of the PSC, depending on whose nominee on the Council is temporarily unable to attend Council proceedings. The President will make the selection solely at his discretion if the Council member who is temporarily unable to attend is the President’s nominee. Where, however, if the Council member who is temporarily unable to attend is the nominee of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice or the Chairman of the PSC, the selection will be made by the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice or the Chairman of the PSC, respectively.
- Sir, the alternate members are like full Council members. Each alternate member has to take an oath of office and allegiance before assuming his duties as an alternate member. However, to avoid repeated oath-taking, the alternate member need not be required to take such an oath more than once during his term of office as an alternate member.
Oaths of Office for the Prime Minister, Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries
- Mr Speaker, Sir, I now turn to the amendments to shorten the oaths of office for the Prime Minister, Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries. The existing oaths of office are too lengthy and may be shortened without affecting the substance of the oaths. The present oaths of office for the Prime Minister, Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries in the First Schedule of the Constitution will be replaced with shorter oaths.
- Let me stress that while the new oaths are more succinct and concise, their essence remains unaffected. The oaths have been significantly shortened by leaving out 2 existing paragraphs on confidentiality of Cabinet discussions and maintenance of secrecy. Let me assure the House that in substance there will be no change as the Cabinet is by Article 24(2) of the Constitution collectively responsible to Parliament. Secrecy of Cabinet discussions is the foundation of collective responsibility.
Repeated Oath Taking by Judicial Commissioners
- Finally, Mr Speaker, Sir, the remaining amendment deals with oath taking by Judicial Commissioners appointed to hear specific cases. Currently, Article 94 of the Constitution allows for the appointment of Judicial Commissioners for a period of time and also to hear specific cases. Article 97 requires a Judicial Commissioner to take an Oath of Office on each appointment. This means that a Judicial Commissioner who is appointed to hear two specific cases within a relatively short period of time will have to take the oath twice.
- The Chief Justice suggested and the Government agreed that we can dispense with oath-taking if the interval between the cases is short. The Constitution will be amended such that Judicial Commissioners who are appointed to hear specific cases need not take the oath again if the interval between the cases heard is less than 12 months.
- Sir, I beg to move.
SECOND READING SPEECH OF PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION (AMENDMENT) BILL 2007 BY DPM JAYAKUMAR ON 16 JULY 2007
Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, that the Bill be now read a Second time.
- Sir, this Bill is consequential to the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Bill 2007 which the House has just approved. The composition of the Legal Service Commission (LSC) will be changed and there will be separately constituted Personnel Board(s) for Legal Service officers. Therefore, we have to amend the Public Service Commission (PSC) Act.
- There are certain provisions in the PSC Act which should similarly apply to the LSC and its Personnel Boards. For example, the PSC Act provides for rules for the punishment of those who commit offences in connection with the exercise of the PSC’s functions as well as the protection of members of the Commission. It is an offence to give false information to the Commission and communications of the Commission are privileged.
- The PSC Act is therefore being amended to extend the scope and operation of these provisions to the LSC, its members and the Personnel Boards for the Legal Service officers. The meaning of “the Commission” in the Act will be expanded to include the LSC, so that all the existing rules in the Act will apply equally to the LSC, its members, and its Personnel Boards.
- Sir, I beg to move.
Last updated on 25 Nov 2012