Singapore and English Law

Singapore and English Law

Although Singapore has developed a large body of precedents in insurance cases since it became an independent nation in1965, English insurance law is still heavily relied upon.

English principles of common law and equity, as well as English legislation (eg, the Life Insurance Act 1774, the Fire Prevention Metropolis Act, the Policies of Assurance Act 1867, the Marine Insurance Act 1906, the Third Party Rights Against Insurers Act 1930 and the Misrepresentation Act of 1967), are incorporated into the Singapore legal system. In this regard, Section 5 of Civil Law Act states as follows:

"Subject to the provisions of this section, in all questions or issues which arise or which have to be decided in Singapore with respect to the law of partnership, corporations, banks and banking, principals and agents, carriers by air, land and sea, marine insurance, everyday fire and life insurance, and with respect to mercantile law generally, the law with respect to these matters shall be the same as would be administered in England in the like case, at the corresponding period, if such question or issue had arisen or had to be decided in England, unless in any case other provision is or shall be made by any law having force in Singapore."

Furthermore, Section 3(1) of the Application of English Law Act provides that English common law (including the principles and rules of equity) that was part of Singapore law prior to the act will continue to be part of the legal framework in Singapore until there is a need for modification.

The Law Revision Commission has the authority to modify any English legislation that is specified in the First Schedule of the Application of English Law Act. To date, the following English-based legislation has been revised to conform to Singapore legislation:

  • the Policies of Insurance Act 1867;

  • the Marine Insurance Act 1906;

  • the Third Party Rights Against Insurers Act 1930; and

  • the Misrepresentation Act 1967.

English court decisions and government legislation continue to be in force in Singapore. However, there are areas of insurance and reinsurance law in Singapore that no longer conform to English law. Insurers and reinsurers should be aware of this when conducting business in Singapore.


Reinsurance litigation is virtually non-existent in Singapore. Generally, the relevant contracts include arbitration clauses that provide for disputes to be settled in the country of origin of the lead reinsurer. These entities are almost always based outside Singapore. Nevertheless, with the rejuvenation of the regional economies (particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia) it can be expected that in future more reinsurers will use Singapore's courts and arbitration bodies to resolve disputes.

For further information on this topic please contact Balu Rao at B Rao & KS Rajah by telephone (+65 535 2188) or by fax (+65 534 3972).

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