When he announced that the minutes of the Council of Ministers on the payment affair would be made public, Prime Minister Rutte said that the more than thirty pages would contain brisante – in other words explosive – passages. The minutes now released do indeed contain a cleverly glimpse into the Cabinets deliberations.
It turns out that, in line with what RTL Nieuws reported earlier, there has indeed been talk of critical MPs such as Pieter Omtzigt of the CDA. The Council of Ministers also discussed the provision of information to the Court, and concerns about its possible incompleteness.
Below you can read which points of discussion were on the table in the Trêveszaal; first a few striking passages from the minutes in a row:
First of all, about informing the Chamber. There has been a complaint in Parliament that answering questions in the payment affair is late or incomplete. The Cabinet always said that never happened intentionally. However, the Minutes show that there were also concerns within the Council of Ministers about the provision of information.
Whether or not handing over pieces?
What is a recurring theme here is the way in which Article 68 of the Constitution is to be interpreted, as is clear from the Minutes. Article 68 stipulates that the cabinet must inform the House of Representatives correctly and fully. It is clear from the minutes that at the time Secretary of State Snel (D66) believes that documents should not always be handed over when informing the Chamber.
They talk about a motion from the Chamber asking for a statement of facts, which should also be recited which officials and politicians knew about the unlawful of the Tax Administration. Quickly did not want to provide those documents in the factual account and explain in the Chamber why not. The reason was that he took protection of the officials involved.
Minister Schouten (ChristenUnie) warns that information is a sensitive issue and that the cabinet should not be defensive. “That would not benefit the relationship with the Chamber.” Minister Grapperhaus (CDA) also wonders whether the Secretary of State will get away with it. He also says that all the documents that become public lead to more questions from the Chamber and, in this context, speaks of a “vicious circle”.
Furthermore, the Council of Ministers talks about the many questions raised by MPs about the payment affair. Similarly, Minister Slob (ChristianUnion) says that every answer from Snel directly leads to new questions, “which means that Secretary of State Snel can hardly fail to respond defensively”. Quickly by all questions would not get to solve the problems of the Tax Administration, others also find.
What plays at least as important role in the reporting of the minutes as the provision of information is the way in which critical MPs are spoken. “A joint fight against Secretary of State Snel”, explains Minister Koolmees (D66) the contribution of MPs Omtzigt, Lodders (VVD) and Leijten (SP).
Also demissionary Prime Minister Rutte (VVD) has little understanding of the “activist spokesmen for coalition fractions”, as Great Tit called them. According to Rutte, they tried to “profile themselves in the media” and VVDer Lodders has been made clear that unity within the coalition is important.
That Omtzigt has been sensitized, as RTL said, is indeed reflected in the Minutes. According to Minister Hoekstra (CDA), this was done by himself and by Minister De Jonge (also CDA), “with limited success”.
Hoekstra also denounces that, according to him, Omtzigt has suggested that the officials of his ministry are incompetent. Minister Ollongren (D66) also believes that “it would be helpful if some members of the House of Representatives were to be more restrained.”
Minister Kaag (D66), moreover, believes that in a democracy it is a healthy sign of fierce debate. It has less difficulty with the phenomenon of members of the coalition fractions in the House of Representatives openly opposing the Cabinet. It does propose, however, that frameworks be agreed in consultation with group chairmen.
Van Nieuwenhuizen (VVD) says that the spokesmen for coalition parties informally told her that they are looking for ways to profile themselves. She understands this, but she calls it under no circumstances acceptable for coalition fractions to adopt a sharper position than opposition fractions. Rutte agrees with that, as the Minutes show.