Annemarie van Gaal: Honest Honours List

While last week’s departing MPs deserved their royal honours, Annemarie van Gaal thinks they are not the only ones.

Imagine you’re a teacher, a policeman, a care worker. You work long hours in a tough job which pays enough to get you to the end of the month but not much beyond. Day-in day-out you strive to turn unruly vocational students into responsible adolescents. On a Friday night you and your fellow police officers might be called out to, say, Haren to control a bunch of rioters at a Facebook party. You’re doing an excellent job but it’s not good enough to deserve a royal honour. Sorry, but that’s the way it is.

A royal honour is only bestowed on people who have rendered ‘personal or extraordinary services to society’. You will get a ‘lintje’ (literally ‘ribbon’, or honour, DN) when you have been a volunteer for fifteen years. Not that you can’t have a paid job to be granted an honour, but you will have to have an ‘extraordinary achievement’ on your CV as well as a mention of ‘special or extraordinary accomplishments in your place of work’ which are ‘over and above the call of duty’. Just doing a good job doesn’t qualify.

Consider the ‘lintjesregen’ (shower of ribbons) that fell on the departing MPs last week. The ones who served in parliament for at least ten years were automatically made Officers of the Order of Oranje-Nassau. These people worked hard, but then again they were handsomely paid. An MP makes the tidy sum of €95,000 a year before taxes, topped up by a fixed professional expenses budget of €4,199 and an additional compensation of €10,077 a year.

Additional jobs

If an MP lives in Utrecht instead of The Hague, he is entitled to a living allowance of, in this case, €12,000 extra a year. An MP is also richly compensated in time: parliament is in recess for 13 weeks of the year. Neither is the work, apparently, so time-consuming as to deny MPs the chance to hold down additional jobs.

Some MPs have as many as twenty. I think if any of my full-time staff had another twenty jobs I would have some serious doubts.

But no, their boss, the government, positively encourages additional jobs. MPs are allowed to earn an extra 14% of their salary and many do. In case they make more than 14% they still get to keep half of their extra earnings. Several MPs combine their job with a membership of the city council, in The Hague, Breda and Teylingen, and some are even a member of a provincial council. That will usually earn them an extra €15,000 to €20,000 a year, which means they are allowed to hold on to the full whack.


Most MPs had fine jobs before they became MPs. They were teachers in a vocational school, policemen or care workers. Their former colleagues who are still teachers, policemen or care workers will never be recommended for a royal honour. They have to watch their former colleagues who became MPs and who are eligible, receive one. Meanwhile, these former MPs are sitting at home, with their royal honour and a very comfortable retainer, so comfortable in fact that they wouldn’t even consider returning to their old jobs.

I would be the last one to deny anyone his or her royal honour, our MPs in particular, but last week’s honours list seemed just a little bit unfair.  


Annemarie van Gaal is an entrepreneur and head of publishing company AM Media. She is also a writer and television personality.


Thank you for donating to

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation