Prime minister Mark Rutte has defended the government’s 2023 spending plans during a second day of debate on the budget, and has made it clear there are limits to what the government can do to help families hit by soaring energy bills.
The debate on the government’s spending plans has been dominated by energy prices and opposition MPs again called on the government to improve its €15 billion package of measures aimed at helping families meet fuel bills this winter.
The government is introducing a ceiling on gas and electricity prices and has upped spending on grants and extra benefits to help poorer families in particular. But opposition MPs say people who live in ‘drafty rental properties’ still face savage cuts in spending power because their homes are not energy efficient.
MPs also highlighted the situation facing households which have switched to heat pumps to provide warmth. They are set to be hard hit by the rise in electricity prices and won’t benefit from the cap on gas use.
Rutte pledged to look at all the anomalies as the details of the plan are finalised. ‘We will do our best but that does not mean things will work out,’ he said. ‘No guarantees.’
Suggestions that the government call a halt to efforts to reduce nitrogren-related pollution in an effort to cut costs would only have a knock on effect on other important policies, such as plans to build new homes, the prime minister said.
He also confirmed the cabinet is working on specific package of measures to help small firms who have been hit hard by rising gas and electricity prices, describing the situation as ‘complex.
‘I get that it is complicated but if that is why nothing happens or is delayed, it would not be acceptable,’ VVD parliamentary party leader Sophie Hermans said.
Rutte turned his attention to Wednesday’s debate, when ministers walked out after far right MP Thierry Baudet insinuated finance minister Sigrid Kaag was a spy.
The cabinet can deal with criticism of policies and some criticism of individuals, he said. ‘But this was over the top. My colleague felt extremely uncomfortable and we said, “we are leaving as a team”.’
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