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Wim Voermans on position of Dutch minister De Jonge in face mask deal

Hugo de Jonge, currently Minister of Housing, has chosen to appear before the Dutch House of Representatives to talk about his time as ‘Covid Minister’. This sets a dangerous precedent according to Wim Voermans, Professor of Constitutional Law at Leiden University. However, under Dutch constitutional law, the House could send him packing if it choose to do so in a vote of no confidence.

Voermans says that is ‘unusual and undesirable’ that De Jonge will address the House of Representatives about his previous responsibilities. ‘Our parliamentary system states that ministers are responsible for the policy and actions of their predecessors. As a member of government you are not in the cabinet as a person, but to represent an office’, says Voermans. ‘Suppose De Jonge says something that turns out not to be true afterwards, under constitutional law the current ministers at the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, Ernst Kuipers and Conny Helder, are responsible for those statements.’
According to Voermans, this is the first time that a minister wearing his or her new ministerial ‘hat’ will go to the House of Representatives to explain their actions.

Voermans says that the fact that De Jonge’s personal messages are now the subject of discussion, is no reason to have him speak on the subject. The House of Representatives is not a court of law; the mistakes that a minister makes are not made by ‘the person’, but by the ‘office holder’. 

The article in Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf is available here.

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