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Leader of the Opposition to take lead in scrutiny, be privy to confidential briefings

AMONG other duties, Singapore's new Leader of the Opposition will take the lead in presenting alternative views in parliamentary debates, and may be called upon to attend official state functions, said the Office of the Speaker of Parliament and Office of the Leader of the House in a joint statement on Tuesday.

His privileges include longer speaking durations in Parliament, confidential briefings, and double the allowance of a regular elected Member of Parliament (MP).

The statement set out the duties and parliamentary privileges of the new role, which will be held by Workers' Party chief and Aljunied GRC MP-elect Pritam Singh.

Similar to other Westminster parliamentary systems, where the Leader of the Opposition is formally designated, Mr Singh's duties in the new role will also include leading and organising scrutiny of the government's positions and actions in Parliament, and being consulted on the appointment of opposition members to parliamentary select committees.

Outside the House, he may be called upon to take on other duties, such as attending official state functions and taking part in visits and meetings alongside members of the government and the public service.

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The Leader of the Opposition will also be accorded parliamentary privileges and additional resourcing, to enable him to carry out his duties.

He will generally have the right of first response among MPs, and may ask the lead question to ministers on policies, bills and motions, "subject to existing speaking conventions". He will be given more time for speeches, "equivalent to that given to political officeholders".

He will also receive "confidential briefings by the government on select matters of national security and external relations, and in the event of a national crisis or emergency".

His allowance will be double that of an elected MP, for a total norm annual package of S$385,000. He will be provided with an office and the use of a meeting room in Parliament House; a secretary to support him administratively with parliamentary business; and allowances for hiring up to three additional legislative assistants. This is on top of existing allowances which all MPs receive for one legislative assistant and one secretarial assistant.

Following the July 10 General Election, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Mr Singh would be formally designated as Leader of the Opposition. However, neither Singapore's constitution nor the Standing Orders of Parliament provide for this position, and no one had been formally designated as such before.

But Mr Lee had noted that that election results show that citizens desire a greater diversity of views in politics, and this trend is here to stay. "Designating a Leader of Opposition will recognise this desire while enabling our political system to evolve in a way that maintains our sense of national purpose," said the statement on Tuesday.

"As with any new political appointment, the role of the LO (Leader of the Opposition) will evolve as our political system develops," said the statement. "We look forward to working with the LO to create a robust but stable political system serving the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans."

These duties and privileges have already been conveyed to Mr Singh, and the Leader of the House will make a statement in Parliament to formally set out these terms, it added.

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