Ministers' freedom to speak to be muzzled

19th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

19 August 2004AMSTERDAM — Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has announced a new communications policy to stop individual ministers blurting out opinions and announcing policies before they have been approved.

19 August 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has announced a new communications policy to stop individual ministers blurting out opinions and announcing policies before they have been approved.

The new approach was confirmed by deputy prime minister Gerrit Zalm after Friday's Cabinet meeting. "We are going to try to minimise it," Zalm, who is also Finance Minister, said.

The leader of the Liberal Party (VVD) cited his colleagues, Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Transport Minister Sybilla Dekker, as examples.

Last weekend, Donner revealed to a meeting of supporters of the Christian Democrat Party (CDA) that he intended to strengthen the law against blasphemy. He had not discussed this with the Cabinet beforehand.

His announcement led to an immediate outcry among opposition parties who teamed up with Zalm's VVD and the smallest coalition party, D66, to try to have the blasphemy law scrapped completely. Parliament is to vote next week on a D66 motion to remove the prohibition from the statute books.

It looked breifly as if the motion would be easily carried, until the opposition Labour Party (PvdA) indicated on Friday it was having second thoughts about supporting it.

Dekker was seen as speaking out of turn recently when she announced the thorny issue of mortgage interest relief should be reviewed by the government. Her Cabinet colleagues denied there was any intention to consider whether the provision should be scrapped or reformed.

To prevent such shows of dissent in future, Balkenende has unveiled a new communication plan called Bruggen Bouwen and Grenzen Stellen, or in English Bridge Building and Setting Limits.

Ministers appear to have rallied around the idea at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Friday. But several key figures were not present due to work commitments elsewhere.

Foreign Minister Ben Bot and Overseas Development Minister Agnes van Ardenne were at a conference in Tanzania, Donner, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk and Interior Minister Johan Remkes were attending an inter-departmental meeting, and Social Affairs Minister Aart-Jan de Geus was holding talks with employers.

[Copyright Novum Nieuws 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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