Heated Iraq debate, Labour breaks ranks

There were heated exchanges in parliament on Wednesday as MPs debated the government’s decision to set up a commission to investigate events surrounding Dutch support for the Iraq war in 2003.

In particular, there were clashes between Pieter van Geel, leader of the Christian Democrats (CDA) and Alexander Pechtold of the D66 Liberal Democrats. And the Labour party said it no longer felt bound by the coalition agreement not to call for a full parliamentary inquiry.
Pressure has been mounting for an investigation into the Netherlands’ political support for the war following a string of leaks and media reports which contradict the government’s statements.
Under oath
On Monday, prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who was also prime minister in 2003, announced that a parliamentary commission would look into the decision-making process.
But D66 and other opposition MPs want a full inquiry, at which witnesses can be heard under oath. The commission is an ‘affront’ and a ‘dismantling of parliament’s controlling function’, Pechtold said.
Van Geel attacked the ‘insulting way’ opposition MPs had reacted to the government’s decision. A commission had a better chance of getting at the truth than a full inquiry, he said.
While voting in favour of the commission, Labour leader MariĆ«tte Hamer said her party no longer feels bound by the coalition agreement not to call for a parliamentary inquiry. The commission is a ‘first step’ in getting to the bottom of what happened, she said.
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