Parliament Highlights – 10 January 2017

10 Jan 2017 3 min read

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Making Singapore a dispute resolution hub

Two bills – the Civil Law Amendment Bill and the Mediation Bill – were passed in Parliament on 10 January 2017, to bolster Singapore’s position as a dispute resolution hub.

The Civil Law Amendment Bill will now have a framework for third-party funding in Singapore. The Law Ministry said the move will strengthen the country’s position as a key arbitration seat globally, given that third-party funding is a feature in leading arbitration centres such as London, Paris and Geneva.

Senior Minister of State for Law Ms Indranee Rajah said the move will offer businesses an avenue for additional financing and risk management tools when engaged in the relevant categories of proceedings.

With the Mediation Bill, the Government also will also reinforce Singapore as a desired place for dispute resolution. Under it, once parties reach a settlement, they may apply to court to have the agreement recorded and enforced as a court order.

However, the Bill will not apply to mediation conducted under the Industrial Relations Act, those conducted by the Family Justice Court under the Women’s Charter or those conducted under the Small Claims Tribunal framework. This is to prevent inconsistency with existing rules guiding other types of mediation.

Regulating personal mobility devices

Electric bicycles are banned from footpaths while Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs) like skateboards, kick-scooters, e-scooters and hoverboards cannot be used on roads after legislation was passed in Parliament on 10 January 2017.

The legislation allows the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and partner agencies such as NParks and the Traffic Police to regulate the types of devices permitted and the behaviour of users on public paths.

For instance, only motorised wheelchairs are allowed in locations with “No Riding” signs, such as pedestrian overhead bridges. When cycling on the road, a maximum of two cyclists abreast will be allowed on all roads with at least two lanes in that direction, except those with bus lanes during bus lane operational hours. At night, bicycles and PMDs must turn on a white light in front and a red light at the back.

Retailers are also expected to display warning notices and provide advice to customers on rules of usage.

Those who contravene the laws will also face stiffer penalties. Those caught riding recklessly can be fined up to S$5,000, or imprisoned for up to six months, or both. For failing to provide personal particulars or render assistance in an accident, cyclists and device users can be fined up to S$3,000 or imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both.

In addition, those found illegally modifying or selling non-compliant bicycles, PMDs or power-assisted bicycles (PABs) can be fined up to $5,000 or imprisoned for up to three months, or both, for the first offence.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Mrs Josephine Teo noted that pedestrian safety is paramount, given the increasing popularity of cycling and PMD use with both young and old.

“As it stands today, I’m afraid the burden lies more with cyclists and PMD users to demonstrate that the vast majority of them can be relied upon to be safety-conscious and responsible users of public paths,” said Mrs Teo. “However… I’m realistic that it may take several years before we get to a new balance, where the different users of public paths can happily co-exist with one another,” she added.

Meanwhile, LTA can also inspect businesses suspected of illegally modifying devices, seize non-compliant devices, demand identification information from suspected offenders, and arrest those who refuse to cooperate. Appointed volunteers will also serve as “public path wardens” and can obtain personal particulars of suspected offenders. They will also patrol public paths to educate the public on safe practices.

New changes for hawker centres and wet market stalls

A new management model for hawker centres will bring about economies of scale and benefit both hawkers and patrons, said Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor in Parliament on 10 January 2017.

The new management model, which was announced last month, will see NTUC Foodfare Co-Operative (Foodfare) managing five existing and two new hawker centres on a not-for-profit basis.

“(The operators) will have greater flexibility and space to experiment with new ideas and processes to further improve the vibrancy and operational efficiency of the hawker centresfor the benefit of both hawkers and patrons,” said Dr Khor.

Dr Khor also gave the assurance that there will be no change to the way rents are determined when the operator takes over the management of the existing centres. She also shared that the operators have implemented some productivity measures to address manpower constraints.

Dr Khor also gave an update that the Government is looking into revising the requirement for all stallholders in wet markets to display their prices.

Currently, all stallholders are required to display their prices as part of their licence conditions. In instances where it is not feasible to indicate fixed prices, stall owners can opt toindicate a price range.

However, Dr Khor acknowledged that many wet market stalls may face difficulty in displaying prices given that the prices of market produce may fluctuate on a daily basis. Hence, authorities are currently reviewing this requirement.

“Regardless of the requirement, it is a good practice for stallholders to be transparent about their prices so that consumers will have greater peace of mind when patronisingthem and can make more informed choices,” Dr Khor added.