Prime minister, Christian leader disagree on austerity talks contact

Prime minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday denied claims he had been sounding out the leader of the fundamentalist Christian SGP about the ongoing austerity talks to slash spending by at least €9bn.

SGP leader Kees van der Staaij confirmed on Saturday he had been in Rutte’s car and ‘sounded out’ about issues relevant to the talks.
The minority cabinet may need the support of the SGP to win majority approval for its plans in parliament. The party, which opposes votes for women and believes the Netherlands should be governed according to Biblical principles, holds the balance of power in parliament, with two seats in the lower house and one in the senate.
Asked in parliament on Tuesday about Van der Staaij’s claims, Rutte said: ‘There were no negotiations in the car’.
Alexander Pechtold, leader of the D66 Liberals, then asked Van der Staaij about the reports. ‘As I said, in the interests of transparency, there was a sounding-out about themes involved in the Catshuis negotiations,’ he told MPs. Catshuis is the name of the prime minister’s official residence where the negotiations are taking place.
According to the Nos report, Rutte then stated again: ‘There was contact, there were no negotiations, there was no sounding-out’.
Rutte also refused to comment on the progress being made during the ongoing austerity talks which have now entered their seventh week.

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