Speech by Mr. Henry Kwek (Nee Soon GRC)
Legal Aid and Advice (Amendment) Bill
Mr. Deputy Speaker,
I stand in support of the amendment bill. I would like Min Law to clarify four points.
First, clause 3 empowers the Director of Legal Aid to appoint a “suitable and experienced” public officer whom is not a qualified person under the Legal Professional Act.
Can I understand more about how Legal Aid will determine what kind of processes or cases will merit public officers rather than qualified person? And would it compromise the interest of the aided person in representing his case?
Second, clause 5, I note that legal aid is provided to both Singaporeans and PRs. Are all PRs are given the same rights as Singapore citizens? Or is there another set of tighter conditions necessary for PRs to qualify? Such as close ties to Singaporeans.
Third, clause 7(a) allows the Director to exercise this new power instead of a board. Can Min Law share the rational of this change? How can we balance achieving this potentially increased efficiency with the downside of having the Director become a bottleneck, or a single point of failure?
Lastly, can Min Law share about how Legal Aid assess financial criteria on who to help, especially the grounds for discretion? For example, there are some families with income higher than the threshold, but the familial relationships are strained and money is not allowed, or the family have significant medical expenses or debt.
Notwithstanding my queries, I support the amendment bill. Thank you.