Public Entertainments and Meetings Amendment Bill – Speech by Sylvia Lim


(Delivered in Parliament on 8 May 2017)


One of the key thrusts of the Bill is to reduce the likelihood of our public entertainment night spots being owned and managed by those engaged in serious crime or organised crime activities.  I agree that this is important, not only to promote a safe environment for patrons, but also to deny serious criminals a source of income and a means for money-laundering.

While I support the Bill’s overall aims, I have two sets of queries on the Bill regarding public entertainment licensing and enforcement.



First, on licensing.

The licensing of public entertainment establishments vests in the Licensing Officer.  For those who wish to appeal against the Licensing Officer’s decisions, the Bill proposes the setting up of a new Public Entertainment Appeals Board, to replace the Minister as the appellate authority in certain types of appeals.   Clause 15 amends Section 16 of the Act, to provide for the Appeals Board to be the authority to hear appeals against the Licensing Officer’s decisions if the appeal is from a specified establishment or a prescribed class of applicants or licensees.  At the same time, other appeals will continue to go to the Minister.  I would like to know what the general division of work will be between the Appeals Board and the Minister.  Is it the intention is to let the Appeals Board hear appeals which may be of a more routine nature, while the Minister retains the power to hear appeals in more difficult or complex cases?  Or is it vice versa, with the Appeals Board dealing with the more difficult appeals?



My second set of queries relate to enforcement as set out in Clauses 17 and 18 of the Bill.

Clause 17 amends the current Act significantly in terms of the rights of entry and inspection of enforcement officers.  The current Act empowers the Licensing Officer and police officers to enter premises to ascertain if licensing conditions are complied with.  The Bill will include a new category of officer, called an “authorised person”, who together with the Licensing Officer and police officers will be called “inspecting officers”.  These inspecting officers will be given enhanced enforcement powers to enter and inspect public entertainment outlets.  Earlier the Parliamentary Secretary in his Second Reading speech highlighted that these persons would not have powers of arrest and forced entry which the Licensing officer and police officer have. However the Bill goes give the authorized persons enhanced powers in confrontational scenarios such as requiring production of information, accessing computers, interviewing suspects on site and requiring witnesses to provide explanations of documents or information found.

The inclusion of the new category of “authorised persons” to exercise these enhanced powers deserves some attention.  According to Clause 5 of the Bill, an individual may be appointed as an “authorised person” if he is “suitably trained”.  What does “suitably trained” mean?  If the government is referring to auxiliary police officers becoming authorised officers for licensing inspections, does their training would cover the necessary skill competencies to handle the confrontational scenarios envisaged in Clause 17?

Finally, on enforcement, Clause 18 amends Section 17A to explicitly include powers of forced entry.  I would like a clarification on why it is deemed necessary now to expressly empower a Licensing Officer with powers of forced entry, when he seems to have managed his duties all these decades without such an explicit power.