Statement by minister-president of the Netherlands Mark Rutte on the resignation of the Kabinet
One of my distant predecessors as minister-president, Pieter Cort van der Linden, once wrote about the task of the government: "[The state] pushes back the overconfident, protects the weak, distributes risks, and in the rush to the top guides everyone."
That is a high standard, and it is clear that the government has not met that standard in the childcare benefit file.
The rule of law must protect residents and citizens against an all-powerful government and that has gone terribly wrong here.
The report by the Parlementaire Ondervragingscommissie Kinderopvangtoeslag (Parliamentary Interrogation Committee on Childcare Benefit) is harsh, but fair.
On all levels, throughout the entire political-administrative-legal system, mistakes have been made that have led to thousands of parents being wronged.
However the political responsibility ultimately lies with the incumbent cabinet and nowhere else.
In recent weeks and days, we have discussed the report at length several times within the cabinet.
The most important goal was to draw up a thorough and substantive reaction to the report.
A reaction that is aimed at ensuring that nothing like this can ever happen again.
Today, we have finalised this response together and as agreed, we will present it to the Lower House today.
The parents are entitled to it.
The government's reaction is, of course, about financial compensation for the parents affected - that is the first thing that must be properly regulated.
We will continue with that anyway.
Of course more is needed for the future, because things cannot and must not go so terribly wrong again.
That's why we need a whole new benefits system, starting with childcare benefits.
Signals that things are not going well somewhere must surface much quicker and lead to action much sooner.
The provision of information must also be fundamentally overhauled.
For example, from now on, the documents on which a cabinet decision is based will be made public and a list of decisions with explanatory notes will be published after each council of ministers.
The question of political responsibility was also raised today.
We are united: if the whole system has failed, responsibility can only be borne jointly.
And that has led to the conclusion that I have just presented the resignation of the entire Kabinet to the Koning, and I will go to the palace after this press conference to explain further to the Koning.
This means that the government is outgoing.
Eric Wiebes, as the former staatssecretaris van Financiën, has made the personal decision to resign and to step down as Minister of Economische Zaken en Klimaat with immediate effect.
He will explain this decision himself in a moment. It is his decision, which I respect.
With his creative mind, Eric Wiebes has often contributed to solving complicated issues.
We will miss him.
The question now is: what does the resignation of the cabinet mean in concrete terms?
The elections are scheduled for mid-March.
In the meantime, we can be expected to do what is necessary in the national interest.
Of course, we do this in close consultation with, and accountable to, parliament.
To the Netherlands, I would say:
our fight against the coronavirus continues.
Our work in the coming months will continue to focus on corona and on dealing with the economic and social consequences through all existing and announced aid packages.
To the parents affected by the childcare allowance affair, I would like to say this: we will continue to work towards rapid compensation and the improvements needed for the future.
With today's decision, the Kabinet wants to do justice to all those parents to whom unprecedented injustice has been done.
Thank you very much."
The Toeslagenaffaire is a scandal in the Netherlands in which approximately 26,000 parents were unjustly suspected of childcare benefit fraud and/or became victims of a harsh fraud approach by the Tax and Customs Administration, from 2013 until at least 2019. This came to light in September 2018.