Second Reading for Registration of Births and Deaths Bill – Speech by Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development
1. Madam Deputy Speaker, on behalf of the Second Minister for Home Affairs, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a second time.”
2. The Registration of Births and Deaths Act, or RBDA, was enacted in 1937. It empowers the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, or ICA, to maintain a record of births and deaths in Singapore. This record is also important for policy making and the provision of public services. It allows, for example, the Government to plan for the needs of our population in areas such as education and housing.
3. This Bill will repeal and re-enact the RBDA. The main objective is to streamline the birth, death and stillbirth reporting and registration processes.
Overview of Key Changes
4. The Bill will introduce six key changes to the RBDA:
#1 – Mandate Reporting of All Births, Deaths and Stillbirths
Local Births, Deaths and Stillbirths
5. First, on reporting of births, deaths and stillbirths.
6. The current Act requires certain persons to register births, deaths and stillbirths, but does not impose a mandatory reporting requirement.
7. To be clear, reporting is different from registration. The reporting of a birth, death or stillbirth is an important first step. It alerts the relevant authorities to the occurrence of the event. After a birth, death or stillbirth is reported, the next step is registration. In the case of births, for example, the RG will register the birth after the parents or legally-appointed persons provide a name for the child and other birth particulars.
8. This Bill will impose a mandatory reporting requirement on persons defined in clauses 7, 22 and 32 for local births, deaths and stillbirths respectively. This includes a medical practitioner who attends to a birth in a hospital, and for deaths outside a hospital, an occupier of the premises who knows of the death. Failure to report, without a reasonable excuse, will result in a fine not exceeding $1,500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month, or both.
9. This does not include deaths reportable under the Coroners Act, such as unnatural deaths, or deaths where the identity of the deceased is unknown. Such deaths will continue to be reported to the Police as currently required under the Coroners Act.
Births, Deaths and Stillbirths on Inbound Conveyance
10. The Bill expands the scope of the RBDA to include the reporting of births, deaths and stillbirths on board an aircraft, vessel or train, henceforth referred to as a conveyance, that is outside of, but bound for, Singapore. Clause 10 of the Bill makes it mandatory for births on an inbound conveyance to be reported to the RG as soon as practicable after arrival in Singapore. Likewise, clauses 26 and 35 mandate that deaths and stillbirths on an inbound conveyance be reported to the Police as soon as practicable after arrival in Singapore.
#2 – Streamline Birth Registration Process
11. Second, on streamlining the birth registration process.
12. The current RBDA requires a parent of a child born in Singapore, or any person who is present at the birth or in charge of the child, to furnish the child’s birth particulars to the RG within 14 days, so that the RG can register the birth. An application for registration made after 14 days, but by 42 days after the child’s birth, is considered a delayed registration.
13. The concept of a delayed registration is no longer relevant in today’s context and will be removed. The timeline of 42 days will provide sufficient time for the parents and legally-appointed persons to provide the child’s birth particulars, which includes an appropriate name for the child.
14. An exception is made under clause 8, in the case of a child who dies within 42 days after birth. In such a case, the persons responsible for providing birth particulars are exempted from that requirement. Instead, the RG will register the birth on his own volition under clause 9, based on available particulars from the death reporting of the deceased child. This will relieve the grieving parents of the birth registration formalities during such a difficult time.
#3 – Consolidate Registration of All Births Under Same Legislation
15. Third, on consolidating the registration of all births under the RBDA.
16. Currently, the birth of an adopted child is registered or re-registered under the Adoption of Children Act, while the birth of a child out of wedlock is legitimated and re-registered under the Legitimacy Act if the parents subsequently register their marriage. For a child to whom the Status of Children (Assisted Reproduction Technology) Act applies or who is legitimated under that Act, his or her birth is registered or re-registered in accordance with the current RBDA.
17. Clauses 14 and 15 of the Bill will consolidate the registration of births currently in the Adoption of Children Act and the Legitimacy Act, under the RBDA. This consolidation will impose the same registration requirements on all local births, such as the requirements and restrictions on the name of a child under clause 19. Clauses 16 to 18 will allow for births of children to whom the Status of Children (Assisted Reproduction Technology) Act applies or who is legitimated under that Act, to continue to be registered or re-registered under the Bill.
18. Accordingly, the Adoption of Children Act, Legitimacy Act and Status of Children (Assisted Reproduction Technology) Act will be amended by clauses 64, 66 and 69 respectively.
#4 – Streamline Death Registration Process
19. Fourth, on streamlining the death registration process.
20. Currently, two steps are needed to register a death in Singapore.
21. Under the Bill, the second step will be removed. In other words, the relative will no longer need to provide the death particulars at a registration centre. As mentioned earlier, a death in Singapore, other than a reportable death under the Coroners Act, must be reported to a medical practitioner as soon as practicable. Upon receiving the report, the medical practitioner must examine the deceased person’s body as soon as practicable and ascertain relevant information regarding the circumstances of the death. Thereafter, if the death is not a reportable death under the Coroners Act, the medical practitioner must, within 24 hours after examining the body, certify the death online by providing the cause of death and other death particulars to the RG under clause 23. The death will then be automatically registered by the RG under clause 24.
22. Once the death is registered by the RG, the deceased person’s relative may download the digital death certificate from the My Legacy website, a one-stop portal for post-death matters.
23. In the case of a reportable death under the Coroners Act, the deceased person’s relative also does not need to register the death. The RG will automatically register the death under clause 24 after receiving the Coroner’s certificate.
#5 – Enhance the Powers of the RG to Register Births, Deaths and Stillbirths under Special Circumstances
24. Fifth, on enhancing the powers of the RG to register births, deaths and stillbirths under special circumstances. I will cover the various special circumstances in turn.
Local Births with Incomplete Birth Particulars
25. Clause 9 empowers the RG to register a birth in Singapore on his own volition in the absence of complete birth particulars. This additional power is important for the welfare of children born in Singapore. It ensures that every child is given a legal identity and his or her presence is made known to other Government agencies, to allow for Government intervention or support if necessary. The RG will exercise this power if the responsible persons for a child fail to furnish the birth particulars for birth registration, and where attempts to contact the responsible persons are futile.
26. In registering such a birth, the RG will give the child an appropriate name. Clause 20 provides that a responsible person may apply to the RG to change the name given by the RG within 7 years after the child’s birth.
Local Deaths Without a Body
27. A second scenario is a local death where the deceased person’s body is destroyed, not recoverable or cannot be located. In these circumstances, currently, the deceased person’s family will need to wait for the issuance of a Coroner’s certificate before an application for death registration can be made.
28. Under clause 25 of the Bill, the RG may register such a death before a Coroner’s certificate is issued, if the RG is satisfied from the information and evidence provided as to the occurrence of the death in Singapore and the identity of the deceased person. This will allow the deceased person’s family to proceed with post-death matters in a more timely manner.
29. To determine that such a death has occurred in the absence of a body, the RG will rely on information and evidence from competent authorities, such as the Police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force, and any other relevant persons. If the RG is not satisfied that the death has occurred or cannot confirm the identity of the deceased person, he will not register the death. The deceased person’s family will then need to wait for the outcome of the Coroner’s inquiry and the issuance of the Coroner’s certificate.
30. For clarity, this provision does not apply to missing persons. The next-of-kin of a missing person who wishes to have the missing person presumed by law to be dead will need to apply to the Court for the necessary order.
Births, Deaths and Stillbirths On Board Incoming Conveyances
31. A third scenario is births, deaths and stillbirths on board a conveyance that is outside of, but bound for, Singapore.
32. As mentioned earlier, clauses 10, 26 and 35 of the Bill impose a mandatory reporting requirement for such events. However, registration is not mandatory as the births, deaths and stillbirths did not happen in Singapore. The parents of a child or a stillborn child, and the relatives of a deceased person, can choose whether to register the event in Singapore, or only when they return to their home country.
33. Clauses 13, 27 and 36 will allow the RG to register such births, deaths and stillbirths, if the parents and relatives choose to, and make an application to register the event in Singapore. This expanded scope of the RG’s powers will provide administrative ease in cases where a child, or a deceased person’s body, arrives in Singapore, and official documentation is needed by the receiving country to which the parents or relatives wish to bring the child or body. It also caters for instances where the home country of the child’s parents or the deceased person is not able to register the birth, death or stillbirth under its laws.
Overseas Deaths of Singaporeans and Permanent Residents
34. A fourth scenario is overseas deaths. Under clause 28, the RG may register the death of a Singapore citizen or permanent resident, or PR, who dies overseas. This is provided that the deceased person’s body is brought back to Singapore and the death is not registered overseas. The relative of the deceased person must make the application within 3 months after the death and provide a medical document certifying the cause of death. This expanded scope will cater to the registration of overseas deaths of Singaporeans and PRs that are not able to be registered overseas for some reason. This may include, for example, the temporary closure of government services overseas. The requirement for the body to be brought back to Singapore is to prevent fraudulent registration. Hence, this power does not extend to an overseas death where the body is not found. In such a case, the relative of the deceased person will need to apply to the Court for an order on the presumption of death, if the death is not registered with the foreign authorities.
#6 – Empower the RG and ICA Officers to Investigate and Enforce against Offences under the RBDA
35. Last but not least, the powers of the RG and ICA officers will be enhanced to facilitate investigation and enforcement against offences under the Bill.
36. Under clause 42, the RG will be empowered to obtain information required to perform his functions as well as ascertain whether a registrable event has occurred or whether a provision in the Act has been complied with. The RG will also be empowered under clause 44 to take possession of false or invalid documents produced in connection with the reporting and registration of births, deaths and stillbirths.
37. Under clauses 45 and 46, ICA officers who are appointed as authorised registration officers will be able to conduct searches and investigations.
38. The Bill also prescribes offences in clauses 48 to 53 in relation to: (1) the provision of false or misleading statement or information; (2) the unauthorised access to or interference with the registers; (3) the forging of or tampering with certificates or extracts; (4) the obstruction of the performance of functions or exercise of powers by the RG or an authorised registration officer; and (5) offences by corporations and unincorporated associations or partnerships.
39. In addition, the penalties under the Bill will be raised across the board to ensure deterrence, given that the penalties in the current Act have not been raised since 1937.
40. Madam Deputy Speaker, this Bill provides for the streamlining of the reporting and registration processes for births, deaths and stillbirths, and expands the scope of the legislation to cater to a wider variety of scenarios. Let me summarise what the simplified processes will be for the large majority of the public.
41. First, for births. A woman gives birth to a child in a hospital. The attending medical practitioner files a Notification of Live Birth to report the birth to the RG; the parents do not need to do this. Anytime within 42 days after the birth, the parents must register the birth, either online using the LifeSG mobile application, or in person at ICA. Once this is done, the parents will receive a notification to download the digital birth certificate.
42. Second, for deaths.
43. Third, for stillbirths. When a woman gives birth to a stillborn child in a hospital, a medical practitioner will examine the body and certify the cause of death online. The stillbirth particulars are then conveyed electronically to the RG, who will automatically register the stillbirth; the parents no longer need to do this. The parents may then download the digital stillbirth certificate from the My Legacy website.
44. These amendments, Madam, will significantly increase convenience for the public.
45. Madam Deputy Speaker, I beg to move.
Watch the speech here.