The first of two days of formal debate on the cabinet’s 2015 spending plans took place on Wednesday, with opposition MPs queuing up to accuse ministers of showing a lack of ambition and betraying pensioners.
The debate got off to a confrontational start when Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam PVV, demanded a copy of the Koran be removed from the parliamentary chairwoman’s table.
After MPs voted 11 to 125 against the motion, Socialist Party leader Emile Roemer took to the stand to outline his party’s objections to the budget, in particular the impact on the elderly, who are losing tax breaks and face higher healthcare premiums.
VVD leader Halbe Zijlstra called for a further increase in spending on the defence ministry, saying the €100m a year increase in the budget does not go far enough. ‘Who sacrifices security for prosperity will lose both,’ Zijlstra said.
Zijlstra also repeated his earlier calls for a total overhaul of the tax system, which the cabinet has decided to delay because of the complexity of scrapping supplementary benefits. Such a process will take five or six years and must involve a sharp reduction in the tax burden, the VVD parliamentary party leader said.
Zijlstra also attacked radical Muslims in the Netherlands for sowing hatred and threatening Dutch freedoms.
But he refused to give way when asked by Wilders if the Islamic culture belonged in the Netherlands.
‘We have a different history here,’ Zijlstra said. ‘But if you are asking if people from Muslim cultures belong in the Netherlands, my answer is yes.’
Sybrand Buma, leader of the Christian Democrats, used the debate to renew his calls for legislation to ban the glorification of violence.
The debate, which will include all the party leaders, is set to continue into the night. On Thursday, ministers will answer MPs objections and questions.
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