Dutch government violates constitution, Senate chairwoman says

Ms Ankie Broekers-Knol, photo ANP / Robin van Lonkhuijsen

This photo shows Ms Ankie Broekers-Knol. She is a Dutch politician. She is the Chair of the First Chamber of Parliament (the Senate). She is a member of the VVD political party, the biggest party in the two-party government coalition. The VVD is a pro-Big Business party; a bit similar to Conservatives in Britain and Republicans in the USA, though without the Christian religious fundamentalist connections of these two parties.

Recently, VVD minister for Health Schippers tried to make the Senate pass her proposals to make non-affluent people lose their right to have doctors of their own choice. According to Ms Schippers, only rich people should have the right to choose which doctors they consult. Not so rich people would have to deal with doctors appointed for them by insurance corporations. That might mean doctors whom they don’t know; who live far away on the other side of the country, so might cost lots of time and money for sick poor people, etc.

The official VVD party ideology claims to support liberalism and freedom of choice. However, in this case, the VVD government would take away freedom of choice from everyone but the richest people. The not so rich majority would become even more dependent on the already powerful corporate bureaucracies of the insurance companies.

Doctors’ and patients’ organisations spoke out strongly against Schippers’ proposals. A majority in the Senate voted against them.

The government then announced they would make new proposals to parliament. Critics fear these new proposals may be only cosmetically different from the old, rejected, proposals. The intention of the government is that their new proposals will first pass the Second Chamber of Parliament (roughly equivalent to the House of Representatives in the USA). Then, the Senate will vote on them again.

It is very doubtful whether the Senate will pass the new proposals. On 18 March 2015, there will be elections for the legislatures of the Dutch provinces; which, in turn, elect the senators. Opinion pollsters expect that the government parties VVD and PvdA will lose these elections, weakening their position in the First Chamber.

The government has announced that if the Senate will again refuse to make their proposals law, they will make them reality anyway, by decree, a so called Algemene Maatregel van Bestuur (AmvB).

The government got much criticism for this plan, which many experts call unconstitutional. VVD politician and Senate chair Ms Ankie Broekers-Knol, in a radio interview today, agrees this would indeed be unconstitutional.

She said (translated):

The chairwoman of the Senate thinks that the approach by the government is worrying. “Not only is the Senate bypassed, but the parliamentary system is also bypassed.” According to her, an AmvB is an administrative decree, a tool to implement a law. “It is a subordinate legislation, designed to implement and is not intended to change the heart of a law. A law can only change by another law.”

Meanwhile, on Twitter, Frans Weisglas, ex-Second Chamber chair, has called on his successor, Ms van Miltenburg, to also the reject the government’s AmvB plan. Like Broekers-Knol and Van Miltenburg, Weisglas is a VVD politician.

Dutch PvdA undermines PvdA senators’ independence, PvdA senator says: here.

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