Debate In 2 Minutes

The ripple effects of events overseas - from the Brexit vote in Britain to the South China Sea dispute - were felt in the House yesterday as MPs asked ministers how the events would affect Singapore when Parliament sat after a mid-year break. The issues of lift maintenance and how private-hire operators are regulated here were also discussed during question time.

Preventing lift breakdowns

All town councils will have to set aside a higher proportion of their monthly service and conservancy charges for their sinking funds, specifically to pay for lift replacements, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

He did not specify the sum that must be set aside and when the new rule will kick in.

Regulating private-hire cars

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) asked if private-hire car operators like Uber and GrabCar would be subject to the same requirements as taxis.

But Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng said it may not be desirable to level the playing field as it would also mean playing by the same rules, such as allowing private-hire cars to pick up street-hailing passengers.

Brexit uncertainty

The immediate impact of Brexit has not been a major concern for Singapore, said DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam as he explained that the short-term effect of Britain's vote to exit the European Union was felt more keenly in financial markets than in economies.

It is too early to say how events will unfold, but uncertainty will weigh on world markets, he added.

Laws on contempt

The Law Ministry introduced a Bill that, if passed into law, will put contempt-of-court laws into the statute book.

Currently, such laws exist under common law, which is built upon the judgments of previous cases.

The move will give the public a better sense of the types of comments permissible about the judiciary and enable more effective enforcement of court orders, said Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

Discrimination at work

Fewer than 10 per cent of complaints about workplace discrimination in the past five years were about race or religion. Since 2014, 10 employers have been warned over such complaints and 12 have had their work pass privileges curtailed.

Contributing to the IMF

Parliament approved a change in law that allows the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to help the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with financial assistance to low-income countries. Under the changes, the MAS will be able to give grants to the IMF over and above its standard contribution.

Helping children with special needs

Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) called for more to be done to promote better understanding of children with special needs and their caregivers. Mr Murali, who won the Bukit Batok by-election in May, suggested a code of conduct for pre-schools and bus operators on helping these children.

Charissa Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2016, with the headline 'Debate In 2 Minutes'. Print Edition | Subscribe