The Prime Minister said this on Thursday in the House of Representatives in the annual debate on the budget of the Royal House. Rutte promised last year that he would answer ‘generous’, but now believes that he ‘should have known better’.
The king will receive a benefit consisting of salary (the A component), just over EUR 1 million net this year, and a B component of more than EUR 5 million that can be freely spent. That amount raises many questions, because the entire Department of the Royal House with about 300 employees is already at the expense of the national budget.
Last week, Rutte explained in a letter to parliament that the king spent the money on, among other things, ten specific management positions in the royal household, as well as a number of ‘personal advisers and private secretaries’ who also belong to the royal household. He didn’t want to go any further. Information about other expenses, including material expenses, would affect personal privacy too much.
PvdA MP Barbara Kathmann disagreed. ‘It is a normal motion that requires better insight into the expenditure of our tax money, not the receipts for every roll of liquorice the king buys.’ She pointed out that in recent days “a battery of lawyers has been cut into pieces” of Rutte’s defense that he encounters “the limits of the Constitution” with more information.
The protection of privacy is laid down in the Constitution (art. 10) and the king has the right to organize ‘his House’ (art. 41). Lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops, among others, stated on Twitter that ‘furnishing’ of the household is something different than ‘costs’ of the household. ‘Prime Minister misinterprets the Constitution’, says Knoops.
“I take very seriously the way in which the Prime Minister deals with this,” said D66 MP Joost Sneller. He felt that the Constitution was ‘inappropriately stretched’. He recalled that the request for more openness was based on a recommendation from the Court of Audit. He advised ‘to carry out a test every five years to assess whether the level of the B component is still appropriate to the level of the king’s personnel and material expenses’.
Sneller was also surprised at the absence of a so-called decision memorandum in Rutte’s reticent attitude. In the pursuit of a new administrative culture, decision memorandums have been sent along with cabinet decisions since 1 July, so that the House can see which advice forms the basis for a decision. Last week’s letter to parliament contained only one-line advice: ‘agree to dispatch’.
‘A cynic would say: typical Rutte’, noted Sneller. ‘But I’m an optimist. So I ask: was there really no legal advice given at all?’ Rutte replied that a decision memorandum in this case would conflict with the ministerial responsibility and the unity of the Crown, invoking an ‘information’ by the Council of State from 2016. ‘But you already knew that last year,’ Snelr grumbled. . ‘Now there is no way for us to check what the underlying considerations were. That is not even the beginning of transparency.’
Nevertheless, the House (only 9 of the 19 groups took part in the debate) had to make do. Rutte: ‘There will always be abrasive elements if a highly aristocratic family provides the head of state by succession.’