The Debate in 2 minutes


FOR four hours yesterday, Parliament scrutinised the Auditor-General's findings of accounting lapses in the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council's (AHPETC) financial statements.

While two ministers spoke critically of the Workers' Party-run town council, its party chief and the town council chairman took pains to remind the House that there was no evidence of corrupt practices or missing money, and stressed that improvements had been made.

Opposition-run town council's financial statements in the spotlight

THE Government will withhold $7 million in grants from the Workers' Party-run Aljunied- Hougang-Punggol East Town Council until it sets its house in order, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said.

The Town Councils Act will also be changed to give his ministry greater power to regulate town councils and take errant ones to task.

Even as WP chief Low Thia Khiang and town council chairman Sylvia Lim stressed that the Auditor-General's Office report found no evidence of corrupt practices or missing money, Law Minister K. Shanmugam noted that "so many things had gone disastrously wrong".

The WP MPs and town councillors "appear to have seriously breached your fiduciary duties", he said, asking them to come clean and explain themselves to the public and residents.

The debate continues today.

Easing the use of underground space

TWO Bills to pave the way for underground development in Singapore were introduced yesterday, a move following a proposal by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan last September to set out an underground masterplan.

If passed, it would mean that landholders will own the space down to 30m below a level known as the Singapore Height Datum unless otherwise stated in the land title.

Land below that will belong to the State. The Government will also be allowed to acquire strata space below or above ground to develop public projects, without owning the surface land.

Licence needed for firms that mine seabed

FIRMS that mine for minerals on the ocean floor will now need a licence to do so.

The Deep Seabed Mining Bill - introduced in Parliament last month - was passed yesterday. The development brings Singapore in line with obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Companies found guilty of unauthorised mining can be fined up to $300,000.

Committee looking into code of conduct for debt collectors

A GOVERNMENT advisory committee for moneylending, initiated by the Law Ministry last June, is expected to address the conduct of debt collectors in its final report, which will be released by the end of next month.

But even now, individuals have a means of recourse if they feel intimidated by debt collectors - for instance, the Penal Code, which makes it an offence if hurt or threatening behaviour is involved, assured Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah.

Quota of two-room flats for singles could go up

ABOUT three-quarters of new two-room flats were given to singles between 2013 and 2014 - even though just a third of these were set aside for them.

And the Government, said Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman, might consider increasing the quota if there is a declining demand from families and other first-timers.

Childcare target nearly reached

ABOUT 17,000 childcare places have been added over the past two years, placing the Government on track to meet its target of adding 20,000 places by 2017.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing gave this update in response to Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who wanted to know the progress of increasing childcare places here.