Friday 31 March 2023

Prime minister makes statement about justice ministry resignations

Dutch ParliamentThe debate over the justice ministry deal with drugs baron Cees H went ahead on Tuesday afternoon despite the resignations of justice minister Ivo Opstelten and his deputy Fred Teeven.

The debate was organised last week after a television current affairs show said the minister had misled parliament about the payment and that it had evidence the drugs lord was handed back 4.7 million guilders, not two million as claimed.

The ministers stood down on Monday evening, leaving a hole at the top of the justice ministry and the VVD with a major headache ahead of the provincial elections.

Prime minister Mark Rutte opened the proceedings with a short statement in which he said parliamentary rules meant Opstelten had no option but to stand down. The minister, he said, had tried to recover information about the payment made to H ‘up until the last moment’ and when he found it, the minister ‘had to go’.

Despite the resignations, MPs pressed for the debate to continue. ‘There are so many questions that need to be asked,’ ChristenUnie leader Arie Slob said earlier. ‘The departure of two ministers should not mean that parliament does not debate the issues.’

New broom

During the debate, Slob said he would press for a formal inquiry into the deal, in which Teeven authorised the return of 4.7 million guilders to H, without informing the tax authorities or getting full clearance from his superiors.

D66 leader Alexander Pechtold said a new broom needed to sweep through the justice ministry. Control and transparency are completely missing and the ministry needs a good shake-up, he said.

Political commentators say the resignation of two prominent and hardline VVD ministers is a major blow to the ruling VVD with just a week to go to the crucial provincial elections.

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