THE HAGUE - Another debate in the Tweede Kamer over the childcare benefits scandal lasted 15 hours from Thursday into early Friday morning, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte's caretaker Cabinet surviving another no-confidence vote. Parliamentarians were debating with ministers about a meeting of Cabinet members in 2019 during which ministers openly complained about MPs who were members of coalition parties still attacking government leadership.
Forty MPs voted in favor of the no-confidence motion, submitted by Denk party leader Farid Azarkan, and 93 voted against. The roll-call vote took place at at about 2 a.m. on Friday. Azarkan's motion to again censure the Cabinet won a bit more support, but still failed 61-72.
A joint motion calling for the public to be treated more fairly, and to strengthen their legal position was adopted. The motion from GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver and Labour leader Lilianne Ploumen said that "citizens should not be treated with suspicion by the government and there should always be oversight about the harrowing individual effects of laws and regulations."
This also included a clause that racial profiling and the use of discriminatory algorithms to evaluate residents of the country should be urgently stopped.
The debate was seen as more constructive than fierce, and paved the way for a possible restart of Cabinet formation talks. "I am honestly saying that I am not proud of everything I read in minutes, and certainly not of my own statement, in which I echoed the statement of someone else that, as a member of the coalition, you must be a bit more constructive than a member of the opposition. I honestly think it is inappropriate," Rutte said.
Published Cabinet meeting minutes in which the childcare allowance affair was discussed showed that ministers considered suppressing MPs who asked critical questions regarding the scandal in an attempt to limit the political damage. Information was also deliberately withheld about the benefits affair.
The released document still evoked sharp criticism from a number of parties who argued the minutes only confirmed what was already known for a long time. According to them, that Rutte’s Cabinet deliberately withheld information was already apparent from an investigation by the Van Dam committee in December and has now been re-confirmed.
"We already knew that the Cabinet was wrong, that is why it resigned," said MP Rob Jetten, of coalition party D66.
Ministers Wopke Hoekstra and Sigrid Kaag also denied trying to silence or discipline the major figure of childcare allowance scandal Peter Omtzigt but rather tried to address the broader issue of implementation problems at the tax authorities.
They also spent a large amount of time discussing the current state of compensating victims. The Tweede Kamer concluded that all necessary steps must be taken to ensure the victims of the childcare allowance affair are compensated after it was revealed that half of 24,500 parents who registered for compensation before February 15 are not yet considered entitled to it.
One problem revealed in an investigation by newspaper Trouw was that many of those parents who were rejected compensation did not receive this notice in the form of a letter of decision. As such, there was no ability for them to appeal. A motion from Ploumen about this was adopted by the Tweede Kamer which ensures that all of these cases will be considered "decisions", and thus giving parents a chance to appeal.
Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte once again acknowledged being deeply affected by the childcare allowance affair in which fundamental principles of the rule of law have been violated resulting in big financial and emotional damage among the parents.
"It affected me. Nobody in the Cabinet wanted to do this to people. When things go so wrong, it is our duty to fix them."