Dutch news in brief, Wednesday 20 May 2009

20th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.

Government to close eight prisons
Trouw reports that Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak is to close eight prisons over the next few years because of a drop in serious crime.

The measure will lead to the loss of 1,200 penitentiary jobs and has led to criticism by Christian trade union federation CNV which spoke of "extremely unfortunate timing in these times of crisis".

The Socialist Party is opposed to the measure for the same reason, while the conservative opposition parties would prefer an increase in the number of jail sentences and less community service orders.

However, the justice ministry is moving in the opposite direction. It's working on an extension of its arsenal of punishments geared towards the personal circumstances of the convict, including community service orders and electronic ankle bracelets.

Coalition partner the Christian Democrats have argued in favour of softening the impact of the large numbers of dismissals by offering former penitentiary workers a job in the police force.

Criminal law Professor Anton van Kalmthout argued that the justice ministry should scrap its policy of more than one prisoner per cell now that there is a surplus of about 2,000 cells.

Professor van Kalmthout said that one prisoner per cell is also a basic principle of the Council of Europe. "However, as this is essentially a budget cut, I don't expect the deputy justice minister will scrap the multi-prisoner cell".

National Lottery accused of deception
AD reports of a consumer organisation Loterijverlies.nl (Lotteryloss.nl) accusing the Staatsloterij (National Lottery) of paying out much less than it promises in its advertising campaigns.

Loterijverlies.nl has filed a lawsuit against the National Lottery on behalf of 22,000 plaintiffs. Over the past nine years, the difference between the suggested prize money and the money that was actually paid out has reportedly grown to more than EUR 200 million.

"This is deception, pure and simple. The National Lottery deliberately puts out false information with the sole purpose of persuading people to buy a lottery ticket. This is all the more reprehensible in view of the fact that the National Lottery is barred by law from promoting gambling," said Ferdy Roet, who founded the consumer organisation.

Loterijverlies.nl based its accusations on a comparison of the figures for the period 2000 - 2008 as presented in the official quarterly reports of the foundation responsible for the exploitation of the National Lottery. The figures are supplied by the National Lottery itself.

The National Lottery dismissed the accusations as ridiculous, but refused to comment further because it does not want to prejudice the court case.

Airlines offer cut-price flights
De Telegraaf reports that airlines have begun cutting the price of tickets as a result of the growing financial crisis and increasingly empty planes.

Return tickets to destinations such as Jakarta, Bangkok and Sydney are being offered for as little as EUR 365, EUR 380 and EUR 489, less than what a return ticket to Milan cost only recently.

According to the paper, the fight for air passengers has broken out now that there is a sharp drop in the number of business travellers due to the summer holiday season.

Air France-KLM, which announced a loss of several hundreds of millions of euros on Tuesday, is also offering a large number of European destinations for bargain prices, including a roundtrip ticket to Athens for EUR 139.

Audit Office says government policies cannot be verified
In Trouw, Auditor General Saskia Stuiveling said that parliament can no longer adequately perform its duty of supervising cabinet policy at the presentation of the audit office's reports on the annual reports by the ministries.

Every year on the third Wednesday in May, the audit office's reports and reports by the ministries are presented to parliament along with a letter from the prime minister, in which he gives an account of the cabinet's achievements - or lack thereof.

In this year's letter, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said 82 percent of the government’s policies are on target compared to 44 percent in 2007.

However, the auditor general argued there is no way the audit office can check the government's claims, and neither can parliament, which is a serious infringement on parliament's right to control the budget.

According to Trouw, the main problem is that the cabinet's policy targets have been laid down in multiple budgets controlled by different ministries, making it nearly impossible for parliament to exercise any influence.

The audit office also pointed out that in the case of the government's anti-poverty policy, success is measured by the extent to which the cabinet has been able to delegate the implementation of this policy to local councils. There is no way of checking whether poverty is being fought effectively.

The government argues it does not have to account to parliament for policies transferred to local councils.

Queen unveils statue of her parents at Soestdijk
Most of Wednesday's papers feature photographs of Queen Beatrix on the front lawn of Soestdijk palace, where she unveiled a statue of her parents, former Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard, who died in March and December 2004.

Soestdijk palace is where the queen's parents lived from 1937 until 2004, and where the queen herself was raised.

The statue, by sculptor Kees Verkade, shows the former royal couple in a pose familiar to millions of people: Prince Bernhard with his hands folded behind his back and Princess Juliana with her right hand raised, waving to the public.  

Radio Netherlands / Georg Schreuder Hes / Expatica

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