Debate In 2 Minutes

Parliament sat yesterday in what many are expecting to be the last sitting before the coming general election.

Members of Parliament debated and passed four Bills - the Human Biomedical Research Bill, Bus Services Industry Bill, Public Transport Council (Amendment) Bill and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (Amendment) Bill - at the session that wrapped up before 6pm.

Taxing the water plant

The Kota Tinggi District Council had sought to double the land tax on the PUB's Johor River Water Works in Kota Tinggi, in a move counter to the 1962 Water Agreement between Singapore and Malaysia.

Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam told the House yesterday that the new tax rate will apply only to a category created solely for the national water agency.

He added that Singapore has registered its concerns with Malaysia over the proposed change.

Bangkok bombing

Mr Shanmugam yesterday condemned Monday's bombings in central

Bangkok, which killed more than 20 people, including 34-year-old Singaporean Melisa Liu Rui Chun.

Some Singaporeans, including Ms Liu's husband Ng Su Teck, 35, were injured in the blasts.

Extending sympathies to the people and government of Thailand, he said in a ministerial statement: "This is the latest in a long series of such attacks. Unfortunately, it will not be the last.

"The Thai authorities have launched investigations. Those responsible for this act must be brought to justice."

The tissue issue

Laws that set out what researchers can and must do when using body tissues for research, were passed yesterday, but not without some dissent.

The seven Workers' Party (WP) MPs who were present abstained from voting on the Human Biomedical Research Bill, saying that it gives too much latitude to the Health Minister and should be scrutinised by a Select Committee.

Better bus services

The Bus Services Industry Bill that sets the stage for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to regulate bus service providers in a contracting model, was also passed.

During the debate, MPs wanted to know how this would improve service standards.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew explained that with the Government owning the buses, the LTA can respond "more expeditiously" to changes in travel demand.

Operators that will be running bus services as contractors can also be removed if they do not meet standards.

Maintaining rail networks

Do rail assets have lifespans and should they be replaced before the end of their shelf-life? Mr Lui and WP Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam had a protracted debate over the issue.

Mr Giam said rail operator SMRT's website indicates that some rail assets had not been replaced in a timely manner and could have caused disruptions to train services.

Mr Lui, however, said parts typically wear out at different rates, and are replaced on an ad-hoc basis.

"The important thing is actually to monitor them on a consistent level, replace them on an ad-hoc basis as and when necessary," he said.

Tham Yuen-C

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'Debate In 2 Minutes'. Print Edition | Subscribe