Arco Timmermans discusses the discrepancies in contact with lobbyists between MPs and the civil service
Each month, Arco Timmermans participates in Dutch radio programme BNR Lobbypanel to discuss a topic at the intersection of politics and entrepreneurship. On 10 December 2019 he told about the discrepancy between the interactions of MPs and the civil service with lobbyists.
The conclusions of the chair of the Dutch House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) show that MPs are less strict in monitoring their own conduct than in monitoring the conduct of the civil service. The civil service is bound by strict regulations to prevent them from buying into, for instance, the tabacco lobby's sweet talking, but these regulations do not apply to politicians. In 2005, the House signed a treaty of the World Health Association stipulating that contact between policy makers, politicians and the tobacco industry should be minimised. Timmermans emphasises that it is important that the House upholds the treaty. The House signed treaty and in principle upholds it, but were things go wrong according to Timmermans, is the fact that they have set their own boundaries and that these appear to be more flexible than the boundaries they have set for the civil service. This discrepancy is not acceptable according to Timmermans.
Would more transparency be useful? Wim-Jan Renkema, a politician working for political party GroenLinks (GreenLeft), claims that MPs should be able to talk to anybody, as long as they are transparent about who they are talking to. Timmermans agrees that transparency can definitely be useful but he is also of the opinion that the House should spend more time augmenting that transparency. According to Timmermans that is something that still needs to be addressed because it seems that the House is partially ignoring the protocol limiting contact. The House sets its own boundaries and that simply is no longer acceptable in this day and age.