Right call to refer GEG to parliamentary special select committee

LETTERS: The regret expressed by the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) over the decision to refer the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022, also known as the tobacco generational endgame (GEG) law, to a parliamentary special select committee (PSSC) is unwarranted.

If Health Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin had not done so, the GEG Bill would have been committed to a Committee of the whole House (CwH). This is the Committee stage of the Bill, which is the House's principal opportunity to consider a Bill in detail.

The CwH is essentially a standing committee consisting of every Member of the House, meeting in the Chamber.

The CwH must consider each clause of and Schedule to the Bill. It may leave out any part of the Bill, amend it or insert new material. Proceedings in the committee broadly follow the procedures of the House itself.

With the CwH consisting of every Member of the House, it has proved to be an unwieldy committee to review a Bill. Unlike a PSSC, the CwH may not conduct inquiries, take evidence or travel.

A reference to a PSSC allows a Bill to be well scrutinized. It allows the details of the Bill to be discussed in a less formal manner but in a definite order, where each and every clause (in the order in which they appear), and schedules and preamble (if any) will be reviewed.

Unlike the CwH, the PSSC will have the power delegated by the House to, among others:

• send for persons, papers and records — this is the key evidence-gathering power and includes the power to call witnesses;

• appoint specialist advisers; and

• exchange papers and/or meet concurrently with the two PSSC above, allowing collaboration between the committees and greater cross-cutting work.

The first allows the PSSC to draw on academic research and evidence in the field. It can accordingly hear views from a wide cross-section of public and expert evidence and witnesses when conducting its inquiries on the Bill.

It may even employ academic or industry experts to act as special advisers for the duration of the inquiry.

Evidence submitted, either in writing or in person, may therefore contribute to changes to the Bill. Scrutiny helps iron out the flaws in the Bill. It is hard work and therefore takes time but it can lead to the PSSC getting to a collective agreement on the GEG Bill and report to the Dewan Rakyat.

That is why the health minister must be commended. He is emulating the reference of the Constitution (Amendment)(No.3) Act 2022 Bill to a PSSC.

The GEG Bill's broad support from all sides would make Malaysia a benchmark for other countries.


Bukit Baru, Melaka

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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