Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang (Nee Soon): Sir, this Bill will create an oversight framework for entities critical to our national security interests. I have three points of clarification.
My first set of clarifications is on the notification and approval regime for notification and approval regime for controllers of designated entities.
Under section 16, a person’s shareholdings are combined with their associates’ shareholdings to determine if notice or approval requirements are triggered.
The definition of associate under section 15 is very wide. It can include even a person’s employers, employees and colleagues. Can Minister share how the monitoring of the shareholding of associates may be carried out in practice by individuals?
If there is any contravention of notices or approval requirements, the burden is on the accused to prove that they were not aware of the contravention. Can Minister also provide examples of what an accused will need to show to prove that they were not aware of the contravention?
My other clarification on this topic is on a difference in the defences available for contravening certain notices requirements.
Section 18(5) requires the accused to notify the Minister within seven days of contravening a notice requirement. Section 19(12)(c) only requires the accused to take “all reasonable steps” to notify the Minister within seven days of contravening a separate notice requirement. Can Minister clarify the rationale for making it is easier to avail to the defence in section 19?
My second clarification is on the Minister’s power to issue a review notice against an entity that has acted against our national security interests. This power extends beyond designated entities to any entity formed in or carrying business in Singapore. It also extends to any transaction where voting power is acquired. The broad powers in this part of the Bill mean that such transactions may be unwound within two years after they are concluded.
MTI has said that the Bill is designed to be business-friendly. However, these broad powers may increase costs and slow down business activity by requiring additional due diligence and monitoring of investments after a transaction has closed.
Can Minister share the findings of its consultations with businesses on the impact of these provisions and how the Government intends to mitigate the impact on businesses?
My last clarification is on the role and powers of the Reviewing Tribunal. As the scope of judicial review is limited by section 46, the Reviewing Tribunal substantively performs the function of the Supreme Court in reviewing the Minister’s powers under this Bill. The proceedings of a Reviewing Tribunal are deemed to be judicial proceedings. Can Minister confirm that the Reviewing Tribunal will apply consistent standards of judicial review as the Singapore Courts, with reference to the applicable case precedents?
Due to national security reasons also, appellants may not be provided with full information regarding the decision being appealed. Can Minister confirm that the Reviewing Tribunal will be separately provided with all information, even information not given to the appellant, to make their decision?
Lastly, will the Reviewing Tribunal be allowed to take into account the potentially incomplete information provided to the appellant, in deciding each case? Sir, notwithstanding these clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.
Watch the speech here.