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Not all MPs can seek clarifications due to time limit, Tan Chuan-Jin says after complaints by PSP's Leong Mun Wai

SINGAPORE — Speaker of the Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin clarified on Monday (March 7) that not all Members of Parliament (MPs) will get to ask their clarification questions due to time limits.

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin (left) and Non Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai in Parliament on March 7, 2022.

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin (left) and Non Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai in Parliament on March 7, 2022.

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  • Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin on Monday did not allow a NCMP to pose questions following the Manpower Ministry's debate on its spending
  • This led Mr Leong Mun Wai from the Progress Singapore Party to state his unhappiness on Facebook
  • Mr Tan explained that due to a predetermined cutoff time, some MPs might not get the chance to ask for clarifications
  • Other MPs who had wanted to speak, but could not, included 3 PAP, 1 WP and 1 Nominated MP

SINGAPORE — Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin clarified on Monday (March 7) that not all Members of Parliament (MPs) will get the chance to ask their clarification questions due to a cutoff time, following a protest by Progress Singapore Party Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai that his questions were not heard.

In fact, there were other MPs from the People's Action Party (PAP) and the Workers' Party (WP) whose requests to ask for clarifications were also denied in order to stick to a predetermined time limit, said Mr Tan.

In Parliament on Monday, Mr Leong stood up at the end of the debate for the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) spending plans to indicate that he would still like to ask a clarification question, but his request was denied by Mr Tan as the time to ask questions was up.

Mr Leong replied: "I think there are still questions... The debate is not over when they are still questions."

Mr Tan ended the exchange by telling Mr Leong that "we are moving on". 

Shortly following this exchange, Mr Leong commented on Facebook on his own post about the Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike. 

In his comment, he said he had "a number of clarifications to make" in Parliament about the GST issue.

"But the Speaker didn’t even give me the chance," he commented. He added in a separate comment: "Completely ridiculous!" 

Following the Education Ministry's debate on its budget, Mr Tan addressed the issue of the time allowance for questions in Parliament, noting Mr Leong's Facebook comments.

Mr Tan explained that for the 2022 debate, 40 per cent of the time would be allocated for the individual speeches MPs make about the budget, 50 per cent of the time would comprise the response time from the ministries and 10 per cent of the time will be allocated for clarification questions.

He added that MPs are also made aware of the guillotine times for each ministry's debate. The guillotine time is a cutoff time that was set in order that Parliament may complete the debate, and MPs are notified about these times on each day of the debate. 

"The debate on the respective heads of expenditure will end once a guillotine times are reached, and members can file a PQ (parliamentary question) should they have further queries for the ministry and should they be unable to raise their queries when the debate has ended," said Mr Tan. 

Mr Tan then acknowledged that many MPs want to ask clarifications for such debates in general, but Parliament is "not always able to accommodate" these requests.

"In fact, many of you text me grumbling about why... you have an important question to ask, but you can't ask. I hope that you bear with me for that," he said. 

He added that he keeps track of which members have asked questions so various members from various political parties are able to speak. Said Mr Tan: "Different members have opportunities to speak at other times so we'd like to give that airtime to different members as well."

For the debate on MOM's spending, for example, he had called on four Workers' Party (WP) members and six Peoples' Action Party (PAP) members. 

There were "a number of members" who had asked to speak but did not have the opportunity to, said Mr Tan.

Other than Mr Leong, this included three PAP members, one WP member, and one Nominated MP. 

"Of which I apologise," said Mr Tan. "We didn't have time, because we reached the guillotine time."

Related topics

Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai Tan Chuan-Jin Committee of Supply

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