Between 1819, when modern Singapore was founded, and 1867, the lawmaking authorities were the British government in India and the Parliament of the United Kingdom. After the Straits Settlements (Malacca, Penang, and Singapore) became a Crown colony, this function was taken over by the Settlements' Legislative Council which was an unelected body. Following World War II the Straits Settlements were dissolved and Singapore became a colony in its own right with its own Legislative Council. In 1948 the Constitution was amended to allow for six seats in the Council to be elected; the country's first democratic elections were held that year. A further amendment in 1955 increased the number of elected seats to 25, and in the general elections that followed, the Labour Front won the majority of the seats in the Legislative Assembly of Singapore and its leader, David Saul Marshall, became the first Chief Minister of Singapore. Self-government was negotiated with the Colonial Office in London in 1956 � 1957, and became a reality in 1959. In the 1959 general elections, the People's Action Party (PAP) swept to power, and its leader Lee Kuan Yew was appointed Prime Minister of Singapore. Singapore gained independence from Britain by joining the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, but became a fully independent republic on 9 August 1965. Its Legislative Assembly was renamed the Parliament of Singapore.
The Speaker of Parliament has overall charge of the administration of Parliament and its secretariat, and presides over parliamentary sittings. The Leader of the House is an MP appointed by the Prime Minister to arrange government business and the legislative programme of Parliament, while the unofficial Leader of the Opposition is the MP who is the leader of the largest opposition party which is able and prepared to assume office if the Government resigns. However, in September 2011, Low Thia Khiang, the Secretary-General of the Workers' Party of Singapore which holds the most opposition seats in Parliament, said that he would not be accepting the title. Some of Parliament's work is carried out by select committees made up of small numbers of MPs. Standing Select Committees are permanently constituted to fulfil certain duties, and ad hoc Select Committees are established from time to time to deal with matters such studying the details of bills. In addition, selected PAP backbenchers sit on Government Parliamentary Committees that examine the policies, programmes and proposed legislation of government ministries.
The main functions of Parliament are lawmaking, controlling the nation's finances, and ensuring ministerial accountability. Parliament convenes when it is in session. The first session of a particular Parliament commences when Parliament meets after being formed following a general election. A session ends when Parliament is prorogued (temporarily suspended) or dissolved. The maximum term of each Parliament is five years, after which Parliament is automatically dissolved. A general election must then be held within three months.
The quorum for a Parliamentary sitting is one quarter of the total number of MPs, not including the Speaker. An MP begins a debate by moving a motion and delivering an opening speech explaining the reasons for the motion. The Speaker (or chairman, if Parliament is in committee) then puts the motion in the form of a question, following which other MPs may debate the motion. After that, the mover may exercise a right of reply. When the debate is closed, the Speaker puts the question on the motion to the House and calls for a vote. Voting is generally done verbally, and whether the motion is carried depends on the Speaker's personal assessment of whether more MPs have voted for than against the motion. MPs' votes are only formally counted if an MP claims a division.
Parliament regulates its own privileges, immunities and powers. For instance, the freedom of speech and debate and proceedings in Parliament may not be impeached or questioned in any court or other place out of Parliament. Parliament may punish an MP for acting dishonourably, abusing a privilege or behaving contemptuously.
Parliament convened at the Old Parliament House between 1955 and 1999, before moving into a newly constructed Parliament House on 6 September 1999.