Contrite ministers pave way for continuation of coalition talks after 15 hours of debate

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Sigrid Kaag, Mark Rutte, Alexandra van Huffelen and Wopke Hoekstra during the debate. Photo credit: Bart Maat ANP

Prime Minister Mark Rutte told parliament he was ‘not proud’ of the comments he made about critical MPs at cabinet meetings, during a 3-hour debate that took place is finished in the early hours of Friday morning.

Parliament was debating the minutes of a meeting in 2019 in which MPs were criticized for asking in-depth questions about the tax office scandal over child benefits.

The minutes were released on Monday after RTL said it showed ministers tried to get ADC MP Pieter Omtzigt, who was one of the government’s main critics over the scandal, ” see the meaning ”.

Thousands of families have been falsely accused of attempting to defraud the child care benefit system between 2012 and 2017, leaving some financially bankrupt.

But the scandal was only fully exposed through the work of a small number of MPs, who constantly questioned ministers and called for full transparency.

Thursday’s debate, which ended with the adoption of a GroenLinks and PvdA motion calling for a new ‘administrative culture’ in The Hague, was about ‘apologies, resolutions to do better and reflection Broadcaster NOS said in its coverage.

Ministers pledged to do better when it comes to providing information to parliament. And Social Affairs Minister Wouter Koolmees said he only ‘exploded’ when he criticized Omtzigt and VVD MP Helma Lodders about whom he said he said. , worked with the Socialists against the government.

And Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra said he had no intention of silencing Omtzigt by “trying to make sense of it”. Instead, Hoekstra said, he just wanted to draw his attention to the problems the tax office was having.

Cleaning ritual

“It was a therapeutic debate, a sort of cleansing ritual,” said Wilma Borgman, political correspondent for NOS. “It was a cast on political wounds.

In particular, the tone of GroenLinks and the Labor Party was less critical than during the April 1 debate, when Rutte was personally attacked by almost all parties, she said.

“The controversial minutes were painful for the entire cabinet, not just for Mark Rutte,” the Volkskrant stressed. “Thus, all the government parties rallied behind the Prime Minister who had“ done nothing wrong ”.

Earlier in the evening, an alliance of the two far-right parties, the farmers’ party BBB, BIJ1 and Denk, attempted to force a second vote of no confidence in the interim cabinet, but failed to garner more support. large.

In particular, the fact that GroenLinks and the PvdA did not support the motion of censure, showed that they “more or less dictate their conditions of participation in a new cabinet,” said Financieele Dagblad in its analysis.

Throughout the debate, according to the newspaper, it appears that the talks of the coalition formations are continuing.

Compensation

At the same time, Tax Minister Alexandra van Huffelen told MPs the scandal was not yet fully resolved and less than half of parents owed for € 30,000 compensation before May 1 would have their money back due to the complexity of the issues.

Previously, she had promised that everyone would be fully compensated by that date. A total of 25,600 parents have signed up for compensation and 11,000 will have the money before the start of next month, she said.

This group includes a “large number” who will not receive anything, because, for example, they do not in fact have children or are earning more than they should have to claim the benefit in the first place.

Fraud

Thousands of parents have been ordered to reimburse tens of thousands of euros in allowances to cover the costs of out-of-school childcare after they were seen to defraud the system.

In many cases, the charge was based on minor omissions in the paperwork, such as a missing signature, but parents were prevented from accessing financial assistance, could not apply for benefits in the years to come and went. were denied any right of appeal. An internal investigation concluded that the label of “deliberate or serious debt” was misapplied 96% of the time.

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