Junior finance minister survives no confidence vote over benefit fraud

Junior finance minister Frans Weekers survived a no confidence vote on Tuesday night at the end of a stormy debate on his handling of housing and healthcare benefit fraud.

The two minor Christian parties ChristenUnie and SGP sided with the government to ensure a clear majority in favour of Weekers after a long evening of debate.

After the vote, a spokesman for the liberal democrats D66 said the motion should be seen as a ‘clear signal’ about support for the minister, who was accused of withholding information from parliament and failing to take the fraud seriously.

Gangs

The criticism centred on claims that organised Bulgarian gangs are milking the Dutch housing and healthcare benefit system, aimed at helping the poorest people pay their rent and health insurance, by using fake addresses.

According to finance ministry figures quoted by the NRC, 280 cases of large-scale benefits fraud have been undertaken since 2006, involving some €95m. The number of investigations soared in 2011, when the authorities decided to step up their investigations.

It is unclear how much the so-called Bulgarian fraud has netted. It is one of 15 cases currently under investigation.

Weekers said he regretted the way the scandal had unfolded – largely spurred on by revelations from RTL news. ‘I remain motivated to tackle this fraud as long as I remain in this job,’ he said.

‘He will not be able to make any more mistakes,’ RTL commentator Frits Wester said after the vote at around 02.00 hours. ‘His position has been seriously weakened.’