The House of Representatives later today debates the issue of the three recently appointed secretaries of state who combined their position with parliamentary membership. There has been a lot of debate over the past few weeks as to whether three MPs who were appointed Secretary of State in the demissionary Cabinet after the March elections could be members of the Chamber at the same time.
These were the Secretaries of State Yesilgöz (Economic Affairs, VVD), Wiersma (Social Affairs and Employment, VVD) and Van Weyenberg (Infrastructure and Water Management, D66). Prime Minister Rutte believes they can perform both functions at the same time. However, according to a number of professors and part of the Chamber, the combination is contrary to the Constitution: the combination would only be allowed for incumbent members elected to the Chamber after elections.
The Chamber then requested advice from the Council of State. The Council issued a sort of solomon judgment last week: according to the advisory body, there are several interpretations of the Constitution conceivable, but there is “not enough ground to conclude that, in the circumstances, the continuation of membership of the Chamber is contrary to the Constitution”.
However, the State Council also called the course of events “unhappy from a constitutional point of view”. According to the advisory body, the complications were not recognized in a timely manner and the answer by the Cabinet of Parliament‘s questions was brief.
The Council of State also pointed out that MPs who were not minister or secretary of state have been appointed directors in a demissionary cabinet not before in history. The Council further calls for a more fundamental discussion on combining membership of the Chamber with a place in the Cabinet. The Council believes that the Chamber has to decide on the matter.
Following that opinion, the three secretaries of state stepped up last week as MP. They believe that a fundamental debate should not be about their individual appointments.
Positions of Ark and Van’t Wout
Last week the combination was also in the news in a different way: Friday VVD‘er Van Ark resigned as Minister for Medical Care due to serious neck complaints. Van Ark, in the previous election right after party leader Rutte number two on the VVD candidate list, was also in the Chamber, but she also cancelled membership.
Van Ark’s colleague Van‘t Wout is also ill, but his legal position is different from that Van Ark, as minister and a member of parliament. It was announced in May that he has a burnout. When asked what exactly his status is at the moment, the State Information Service replied that the situation of May still applies: then Van’t Wout was replaced by his party mate Blok as Minister for Economic Affairs “for the duration that he is unable to perform his duties as minister practice”. Unlike Van Ark, he did not formally resign.
There is a
similar thing for the membership of the Chamber: Van‘t Wout was elected to the Chamber, but he was temporarily replaced. So when he’s better, he can come back again.