Chamber: sanctions against disrespectful Members of Parliament

The Lower House of Parliament will be more vigilant in ensuring that its members comply with the integrity rules. An overwhelming majority supports a proposal to this end from the Executive Board of the House of Representatives. However, there is still discussion about the exact details.

There are all kinds of rules to which members of the House of Representatives must adhere. For example, they may not accept donations. In addition, they must report any ancillary positions and they must also give up if they receive a gift or make a trip paid for by others. But there is a widespread feeling that many of these rules are too non-committal and that there are hardly any sanctions attached to them. Greco, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body, among others, called for tighter and better enforcement.

Board of Inquiry

Today the Chamber debated it. All parties taking part in the debate, except the PVV, supported a proposal that a Code of Conduct be drawn up and that it be enforced. According to the proposal, a special board of inquiry will be set up to deal with complaints about breaches of integrity by members of the House of Representatives.

That board will consist of three people from outside the House of Representatives. On their advice, the House of Representatives may impose a sanction on a member of the House of Representatives. The possibilities are an ‘instruction’, a reprimand or a suspension for a maximum of one month.

Suspension goes too far

There was a lot of discussion about the latter today: VVD’er Van Gent and SGP’er Bisschop think it goes too far that a member of parliament can be suspended for violation of integrity. According to these parties, this measure is not compatible with the free mandate of members of parliament, which is stated in the Constitution. They submitted an amendment proposal to keep it at the time of a designation and a reprimand.

Many other parties and House chairman Arib disagree. They think suspension is the ultimate punishment for someone who does not abide by the rules. The proponents also point out that the suspension only applies to participating in meetings, and that the person in question is not excluded from voting.

It seems that the VVD and SGP amendment proposal does not make it, but whether this is really the case should be made clear at the vote in two weeks’ time.

Anyone may lodge a complaint

The same applies to a second amendment, also by VVD and SGP. The House of Representatives’ proposal now states that anyone can complain about violation of the code of conduct. The two parties want to limit this to members of parliament: they are afraid that there will be a lot of unfounded complaints from citizens who want to choke a certain politician.

Those complaints will then not be dealt with, but will have to be studied, say the VVD and SGP. Supporters of the current proposal are less afraid of that. On the contrary, they fear that restricting it to members of parliament could create the impression that politicians are keeping their hands above each other’s heads.

The PVV sees nothing at all in the code of conduct and its enforcement. MP Markuszower vehemently criticised the plan. He thinks it is a “terrible proposal”. According to him, the supervisory board will be given the power to silence MPs and in this way free speech will be restricted. He thinks it is “undemocratic, unnecessary, and unhealthy”.