Statement by Prime Minister Mark Rutte on the government’s resignation

Good afternoon,

One of my distant predecessors as prime minister, Pieter Cort van der Linden, once wrote the following about the job of the government:

‘[The state] curbs the reckless, protects the weak, spreads the risks and acts as a guide to all in the hurly burly of existence’.

That is a high standard. And it is clear that, on the issue of the administration of childcare benefit, the government has failed to live up to it.

The rule of law should protect people from an all-powerful government and, in this instance, something went terribly wrong in that regard.

The report issued by the Parliamentary Committee on Childcare Benefit is uncompromising but fair.

Across the entire political, administrative and legal system, mistakes were made at all levels that resulted in thousands of parents suffering a great injustice.

But, ultimately, the political responsibility lies with the sitting government and nowhere else.

Over the past weeks and days, the government has discussed the report at length on a number of occasions.

Our principal aim has been to draw up a thorough, substantive response to it.

A response designed to ensure that something like this can never happen again.

We finalised our response today and we will submit it to the House of Representatives today as agreed.

The parents affected are entitled to nothing less.

Of course, the government’s response is concerned with financial compensation for the parents in question – that is the first thing that must be properly addressed.

And our efforts on this point will continue unabated.

But looking to the future, more is of course needed.

Because things cannot and must not be allowed to go so badly wrong again.

That is why we need a completely new system of benefits, starting with childcare benefit.

Signs that something is wrong must be recognised much more quickly and must lead to much faster action.

Information provision must also be fundamentally overhauled.

In the future, for instance, documents that form the basis for decisions taken by the government will be made public and a list of decisions, accompanied by explanatory notes, will be published after every cabinet meeting.

The issue today was one of political responsibility.

And we all agree: if the system as a whole fails, we are all responsible.

In light of this, I have just tendered the entire government’s resignation to the King. And after this press conference, I will go to the palace to offer a further explanation to the King.

The government will continue in a caretaker capacity.

As former State Secretary for Finance, Eric Wiebes has made the personal decision not to continue in the caretaker government and to resign from his position as Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy with immediate effect.

He will explain this decision himself shortly.

It is his decision and I respect it.

With his creative intelligence, Eric Wiebes has often helped solve complex issues.

We will miss him.

The question now is: what does the government’s resignation mean in practice?

Elections are scheduled for mid-March.

And, in the meantime, people are entitled to expect us to do what is necessary in the interests of the country.

In doing so we will, of course, consult closely with and provide accountability to parliament.

To the people of the Netherlands, I wish to say this: our fight against coronavirus will continue.

In the months ahead, our work will focus on combating coronavirus and dealing with its economic and social impact by means of all existing and envisaged support packages.

And to all the parents affected by the failings in the childcare benefit system, I will say this: we will keep working to ensure you are compensated quickly and to make the improvements that are needed in the future.

The government has made this decision in acknowledgement of the many parents who have suffered such an unprecedented injustice.

Thank you.