Knowledge Highlights 7 January 2022

Singapore legislation now has new names. The 2020 Revised Edition of Acts (“2020 Revised Edition”) came into force on 31 December 2021 following the completion of a universal revision of Singapore’s Acts of Parliament by the Law Revision Commission and Attorney-General’s Chambers (“AGC”).

The revisions have made changes in two key respects:

  • Names of Acts have changed: Acts are now referred to by their name and the year of enactment, there are no more chapter numbers, and the year of the revised edition is no longer necessary. For example reference is now “Companies Act 1967” rather than “Companies Act (Cap. 50, 2006 Rev. Ed.)”. The edition number is needed only when referring to a specific historical version of the Act.
  • Renumbered provisions: Some Acts have had their provisions renumbered, and lengthy provisions have been broken down into sub-provisions. While AGC has not renumbered certain Acts such as the Companies Act 1967 and Penal Code 1872 at the section level, Acts such as the Financial Advisers Act 2001 and Income Tax Act 1947 have been renumbered.

No change to meaning of laws

The revisions are aimed at making Singapore laws “plainer while not changing their meaning”, as stated in a press release by AGC on 20 December 2021. This is consistent with the Second Reading Speech on the Statute Law Reform Bill delivered on 5 January 2021 by Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong. In explaining the additional powers given to Law Revision Commissioners to make editorial changes to legislation under section 4 of the Revised Edition of the Laws Act 1983, Minister Tong said that the intention was “to bring [legislation] in line with modern law drafting practices, but without changing the meaning” (emphasis ours). Related amendments were also made to section 8 of the Interpretation Act 1965 to emphasise that changes in drafting styles are not, in themselves, changes to the meaning of legislation.

Other revisions

  • Simplified and modernised language: Plain English is used as far as possible, including gender-neutral language where appropriate, e.g. “chairperson” is used instead of “chairman”, him or her” is used instead of “him”.

Archaic words and long expressions are replaced with simpler alternatives without any change in meaning, e.g. “despite” instead of “notwithstanding”, “to avoid doubt” instead of “for the avoidance of doubt”.

These updates complement AGC’s plain English drafting techniques for new legislation.

  • Comprehensive legislative history: Legislative history continues to be provided for every revised Act but with additional information such as the progress of the Bill through Parliament, amendments made to the Act over time, any consolidations during revision exercises, and any changes to the short title. Diagrams are provided for Acts with complex legislative histories and information on repealed predecessor Acts is also included.
  • Comparative tables: Where an Act contains renumbered sections such as in the Limited Liability Partnerships Act 2005, Financial Advisers Act 2001, and Income Tax Act 1947, a comparative table at the end of the Act compares the new numbers of renumbered provisions of the 2020 Revised Edition with the numbers of the same provisions in the last revised edition or enactment of that Act. The comparative table also sets out the same for Acts where only sub-sections have been renumbered, such as in the Companies Act 1967.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the AGC Singapore website www.agc.gov.sg and Singapore Statutes Online website sso.agc.gov.sg:

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