Is there, or is there not, a corona law to lay down measures against the spread of the virus? And how do you lay it down in a law? The struggle of parties in the Chamber and the Cabinet may come to an end today, but it is not yet finished. “democratic embedding” is still underway, says one person concerned. In other words, the Chamber wants to have much more say.
The emergency law was already criticised from all sides, not only from the Chamber but also from the population, professors, lawyers and the Council of State. The cabinet was already adapting things to that, but not enough, the Chamber says.
All the measures currently in force, such as keeping one and a half metres away and imposing penalties for infringements, are now the result of so-called emergency regulations. That‘s how it works: the Minister of Health gives orders to the chairmen of security regions and they carry out them.
The Cabinet wants to change that through a temporary law. Because in a crisis, you need to be able to move quickly, is the idea, and then the legal basis for that must be clear. If the emergency law as written down by the Cabinet continues, the Healthcare, Justice and Security and Home Affairs administrators can meet together with relevant other administrators and come up with “generally binding” proposals themselves. Without the intervention or approval of the Chamber. And there it is wringing in front of the Chamber.
The government does not have to rely on the support of the SP, PVV and Forum for Democracy anyway. And almost all parties are critical, it was also evident from a lot of questions and answers that Minister De Jonge sent to the Chamber this week.
So the Chamber has been hammering on adjustments for weeks. Coalition parties ChristenUnie, D66, CDA and VVD are now working with opposition parties SGP, GroenLinks and PvdA on new proposals.
For example, they want to reduce the duration of the law from six to three months. The cabinet actually wanted a year, but changed it earlier to six months. In a letter to the Chamber, Minister De Jonge wrote this week that he wanted to hold on to six months, because that is also the opinion of the Council of State.
The amount of the fine for infringements must also be reduced by the parties. The Cabinet has already promised that a coronaboete will not have any consequences for the criminal record, but the parties want to decree in black and white that a fine is not EUR 390 but EUR 99. De Jonge’s adaptation proposal further showed this week that the cabinet reduces the maximum imprisonment for violating distance rules or a ban on retraining from one month to two weeks.
And then the control of the Chamber. The parties now sitting around the table are working on texts to ensure that a minister can never introduce a measure “by decree” – that is, without the Court‘s control. If the Cabinet takes a measure, the Chamber must be able to intervene.
All parties understand that speed is sometimes required, says a person concerned, but the question is, how do you write it down? In the event of an emergency, the Minister should be able to take a measure quickly, but the Court should be given a week to judge it, the parties agree.
Minister De Jonge wrote to the Chamber this week not to feel such a ‘right of ratification ‘of the Chamber because, according to him, it “diminish the necessary rate of treatment”. The parties are now working on a text which regulates rapid intervention, but which retains the right to reverse a measure within a week.
Back to the emergency regulations that are now being worked on. The Chamber has no say whatsoever, so there is a motive to change things now.
“ We have always said that a law is better than an emergency regulation. But the law must be good enough,” says SGP foreman Van der Staaij.
Support from SGP, GroenLinks and PvdA is important, because otherwise there will be no majority in the House of First and Second for amendments to the law. But it’s more than that, says another person. “This is not just a matter of majorities in Rooms. It‘s not a thing between opposition and coalition, but between Chamber and Cabinet. It’s really about democracy here.”