Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the Public Entertainments and Meeting (Amendment) Bill [Bill No. 22/2017]
Madam, this Bill introduces positive changes to the public entertainment and arts entertainment licensing framework in Singapore and I stand in support of it.
Suspension and cancellation of licence
I especially support the amendment to Section 14 of the Act, which allows a suspension of a licence when proceedings in relation to offences listed in the proposed Second Schedule.
We witnessed an active debate in Parliament recently on stamping out the use of drugs. The offences in the Second Schedule include drug offences and I believe this is aligned with the move to make Singapore a drug-free society.
Further, the Second Schedule includes matters in relation to prostitution and human trafficking. I am supportive of this in light of the criticisms levelled against Singapore for not doing enough to combat human trafficking and protect foreign workers in this dark side of society. This is testament to the government’s continued commitment to prevent trafficking.
Madam allow me to seek several clarifications about the Bill and offer some suggestions.
Who are authorised persons?
I note that a Licensing Officer may appoint a suitably trained individual as an authorised person.
Can the Minister clarify what is meant by suitably trained, who these authorised persons will be and also clarify why there is a need to appoint these authorised persons in the first place.
Are penalties sufficient?
Next we are proposing to increase the maximum penalty for unlicensed PE and conducting PE while suspended from $10,000 to $20,000.
I understand that it has been more than a decade since we have increased the penalties and I am concerned whether this increase is sufficient and will be a sufficient deterrent. We need to consider that $20,000 might be the earnings in just one or a few nights in some cases.
I also understand that the Police will work with industry partners to promote higher standards. Can the Minister clarify if these standards have already been drafted, if not when will they be ready and also whether the standards will be published on the Police’s website for transparency.
This will be in line with the “Fit and proper” criteria details which will be published on the Police’s website.
Can the Minister also clarify if the eventual goal is to legislate these higher standards?
Public Entertainment Appeal Board
With regard to the Public Entertainment Appeal Board, can the Minister clarify how a decision from the Board would be made? I note that there is an odd number of 7 persons sitting on the Board so will decisions be made by a simple majority?
Additionally, can the Minister clarify who will be invited to sit on this Board.
Further, in submitting an appeal, will the applicant or licensee be given the opportunity to face the Board and present their case, or if needed be allowed to have legal representation?
Finally, is there a prescribed timeline for this appeal process? I note that an appealable decision takes effect even though an appeal has been made to the Board, unless the Board determines otherwise.
In this regard, an appellant appears to be required to make 2 petitions – 1 to appeal against an appealable decision and 1 to request for the appealable to not take effect until the Board renders its decision.
Can the Minister clarify the process and procedure to request for an appealable decision not to take effect? I believe this requires clarification as some subject matter of an appeal could be very time-sensitive.
Madam, notwithstanding the above clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.