Prime minister Mark Rutte survived yet another no-confidence vote at the end of two days of debate on the Groningen gas crisis, with the fundamentalist Protestant SGP the only party to support the cabinet.
Rutte had faced a barrage of criticism for his handling of the scandal, which has played out across his 10-year tenure as prime minister. Gas production in Groningen is now being wound down but since 1985, some 1,600 earthquakes have struck the province, damaging 85,000 buildings.
During the debate, Rutte said that he was ashamed of the problems which gas extraction had caused and the delay in solving the problems for the people of Groningen. He also admitted that he should have intervened earlier.
“But I am totally convinced that I want to be part of the way forward,” the prime minister told MPs.
Mines minister Hans Vijlbrief has earlier outlined the cabinet’s plans to provide financial and other help for those affected by the quakes more quickly and more simply. Rutte too told MPs that the government would also focus on restoring the damage in the coming months and years.
A two-year inquiry, chaired by GroenLinks MP Tom van der Lee, said the extraction process had become an “unprecedented system failure” and both the public and private sector had failed in their duties.
The cabinet promised a “new start” in its official response to the inquiry last month, but compensation for many householders has been slow, painstaking and piecemeal.
Only around 30% of homes have been made safe and limited amounts of money were made available for repairs on a first-come, first served basis, leading to long queues outside council offices.
The government has pledged to spend €22 billion over the next 30 years as part of the “debt of honour” it owes to the people of Groningen. The Dutch state earned €360 billion from the gas fields over the 60 years they have have been in operation.
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