Fundamental principles of the rule of law that have been violated and parents who have been wronged unprecedented. The conclusions of the parliamentary committee of inquiry did not lie about it last December.
Today, four weeks later, the Cabinet resigns. “It has gone awfully wrong,” said Prime Minister Rutte. According to Rutte, politics must now work on changes in systems and the provision of information to ensure that “such a thing can never happen again”. A retrospective of how it did happen.
It‘s the summer of 2019 and CDA MP Omtzigt is tired of it. For some time now, he has been biting himself into what he sees as one of the most serious abuses in the government: parents who apply for surcharges and have been wrongly classified as fraudsters.
Revelations of Trouw and RTL Nieuws have brought the case to a roll. Parents are tackled hard on strange grounds, get into money problems, lose their jobs or end up in divorce. “This can’t be true, can it?” , thinks Omtzigt. But whatever he does or asks, he doesn‘t go any further. Files don’t get public, questions don‘t answer. Prime Minister Rutte must intervene in the matter, he believes, in order to put an end to the misery as soon as possible.
A year later. Secretary of State Snel has resigned and two successors (Van Huffelen and Vijlbrief) have been appointed to put things in order. But the chaos has not yet been solved. In March, the Donner Commission considered that compensation should be generous. “Parents had no chance of escaping,” said Donner. But after a series of parliamentary debates and commitments, a solution is still hardly in sight. Also, pieces requested by MPs are not brought to the table.
It’s June 2020, the Chamber is dealing with a compensation bill. After two days of debate, it appears late at night that another memo has been withheld and has not been sent to the Donner Commission to investigate the matter. Both Omtzigt and SP MP Leijten, who has also been working for years to get the truth out of the table, explodes. Leijten says that her “shoes fall out”, Omtzigt says to be “witheet”. “What kind of work am I doing? Should I be a detective?” , he wonders aloud. How can MPs do their job when pieces are withheld or information is lacquered? The President of the Chamber also realises how painful it is.
Watch here the video of the painful moment in the Chamber in June 2020.
A few months later: 17 December 2020. Ministers, officials, the House of Representatives and even judges get to it in the very hard report of the Chamber Committee, which took out interrogations for a few weeks to identify what was going wrong. During those interrogations, officials and ministers say they have had “abdominal pain” of things, they have often found it “hard”. That it was the ‘all-or-nothing policy’ that had taken care of the recoveries. Finance officials pointed to Social Affairs and vice versa. But who was ultimately guilty? The Committee considers that all parts of the State must examine themselves. Parents have been wronged ‘unprecedented injustice’, and the fundamental principles of the rule of law have been violated.
Parents hardly dare to hope that they will be compensated. A few days after the publication of the report, Secretary of State Van Huffelen announces that the victims all receive 30,000 euros in any case.
The Chamber Committee judges very hard and speaks of unprecedented injustice.
After several Catshuis debates, the cabinet today concludes that for everything that has happened there is only one appropriate answer: collective resignation. If earlier this week there were still different views on how to proceed, especially after the statement of the Labour Party leader Asscher yesterday, no other outcome seemed possible. Still not all parents are compensated, but the demissionary cabinet wants to continue with that.
Other feats Rutte III
Rutte‘s third cabinet will also enter the history books as the cabinet that abolished the consultative referendum and extended the general pardon. A cabinet that put an end to gas extraction in Groningen, apologized for how people suffered from these gas extractions for decades, and made a start on compensation. A cabinet that ruled in the period when the attack on Iraqi Hawija came to light, killing 70 civilian deaths and investigating it.
A cabinet also signed a climate agreement with a large number of civil society organisations, after years of difficult negotiations reached a pension agreement with unions and employers, and struggled through the nitrogen and PFAS problems. Lower the speed limit on motorways and started buy-out schemes for farmers, but had not yet come up with definitive solutions when theCoronacrisis was suddenly there.
Rutte III had to go into crisis management and locked the country with hard lockdown measures. The government invested billions to keep businesses, self-employed and KLM going. It had to do everything in its power to avoid a black scenario in the hospitals. And meanwhile, it got a lot of criticism of a corona app that didn’t get off the ground, testing policy that was slowly getting started, and a vaccination strategy that seemed more energetic in countries around us. This week Prime Minister Rutte appealed to parties in the Chamber not to block a curfew as an extreme emergency measure against the coronavirus.
Above all, Rutte‘s third cabinet now becomes the cabinet that takes responsibility for mistakes – also committed among previous cabinets – against citizens who were wrongly put in the corner as fraudsters and caused many financial and psychological problems.
Where Asscher did quit yesterday, and Wiebes today, Rutte did not consider leaving as a leader. That is primarily up to the party, he has confidence in it, and then to the electorate, says Rutte.
Political reporter Wilma Borgman believes that today’s move was the most secure way for Rutte to become the leader of the VVD. “He has come to the conclusion that making a big gesture is the only option. He can then say in the election campaign that he acknowledges that major mistakes have been made and that he has taken responsibility for them. If the cabinet had stayed in place, they would have been blamed for being “plush stickers.” Rutte now goes to the electorate as a demissionary Prime Minister to ask for confidence again. If he becomes the biggest again, he can resume a number of years of leadership with a stronger mandate.”