Clarity on allowance scandal consequences for Dutch gov't on Friday: Dutch PM

THE HAGUE - The government will make a decision on Friday about whether or not it will step down in the aftermath of the childcare allowance affair. The political consequences were not discussed in an extra Council of Ministers meeting on Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said after the meeting, NOS reports.

In the childcare allowance affair, hundreds of parents ended up in serious financial problems after the Tax Authority wrongly labeled them fraudsters and ordered them to repay their childcare allowance. In some cases this involved tens of thousands of euros. A parliamentary committee of inquiry recently concluded that the Tax Authority breached the fundamentals of the rule of law in its fraud witch hunt and that affected parents faced "unprecedented injustice". Before that, the National Ombudsman said that the Tax Authority put hundreds of families in an impossible situation. And the Children's Ombudsman accused the Tax Authority of ignoring children's rights.

"We want to respond on a broad front to the report of the parliamentary committee of inquiry. We are in complete agreement. My expectation is that we will get there on Friday. Then the political question will also come up," Rutte said after meeting with all his Ministers and State Secretaries on Tuesday.

Insiders told NOS that Rutte asked the coalition parties to decide whether or not they still support the cabinet before the parliamentary debate on the childcare allowance scandal next week. Rutte himself thinks it is a bad idea for the government to step down in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. But if one of the coalition parties withdraws support, it may be necessary.

During a press conference on Tuesday evening, in which Rutte announced that the coronavirus hard lockdown measures will be extended until at least February 9, the Prime Minister said that if the cabinet steps, it will not apply to the coronavirus policy. "We'll remain missionary on that, maybe not officially, but mentally."

A group of parents who were victims of the Tax Authority's fraud hunt filed charges against five Ministers and former Ministers on Tuesday, accusing them of gross negligence and official crime.

Victims also published a video message, calling for the cabinet to resign. Rutte said that they've received the message and he and State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen of Finance will continue to talk to the victims about the aftermath of the report.

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