Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the Mediation Bill [Bill No. 37/2016]
Madam, this Bill seeks to strengthen the overall framework for mediation in Singapore, paving the way for Singapore to position itself as a major international centre.
Confidentiality of proceedings
I applaud the hard work done by the International Commercial Mediation Working Group in putting together these recommendations.
Most notably, I welcome the provisions for parties to apply for stay of court proceedings, and defining the scope of confidentiality of these proceedings.
I understand that while the mediation process has always been regarded as confidential, the scope of such confidentiality was unclear.
Furthermore, the Bill also codifies the circumstances under which disclosure may take place.
Extending the Legal Profession Act exceptions
I also welcome the proposal to extend existing Legal Profession Act exceptions applicable to arbitration, to mediation. Mediation, unlike arbitration, is not commonly understood to involve the practice of law, and often does not refer to legal principles at all. Nonetheless, in certain cases the relevant law may be discussed during the mediation session.
The amendment to the Legal Profession Act makes clear that participation by foreign mediators and foreign-qualified counsel in such mediation sessions will not amount to unauthorised practice of Singapore law (i.e. Sections 32 and 33 of the Legal Profession Act will not apply to the imminent Mediation Act 2016).
Madam, while I believe these recommendations have been well-thought-through, allow me to ask a few questions for clarification.
Firstly, if this Bill is enacted, it will substantially enhance the enforceability of successfully-mediated cases. However, the Bill mentions that the Court may refuse to record a mediated settlement if the subject matter is incapable of settlement. This provision seems to envisage that some matters may not be settled through mediation – for example, a mediated settlement on the custody of a child that may not be in the interest of the child. But it is the view of some mediators that all cases can be settled through mediation. Would the Ministry provide more clarity on which cases it envisages to be unsuitable for mediation?
Secondly, how will the mediation process be affected by the proposed changes from the Civil Law (amendment) Bill?
I ask this with the knowledge that the Bill covers third party funding for international arbitration proceedings and related proceedings, which also includes mediation.
Madam, these questions notwithstanding, I stand in support of this Bill.