What went wrong in the Senate last night? In the coffee room, the debate – or rather, its cancellation – is the talk of the town. The last time this happened was in 1938. ‘Embarrassing’, ‘a mockery’ and ‘an insult to the rules’, senators unanimously concluded today.
Tuesday meeting day
Just to be clear: the Senate normally meets on Tuesdays. But due to an inserted debate about Schiphol, an extra meeting on the rule of law was scheduled for 6.30 pm last night. There were even three ministers summoned. The Senate has a clear rule: to conduct a debate, at least 38 of the 75 members of the Senate must be present. And there were none, chairman Bruijn counted twice.
So he had no choice but to send the three ministers and the senators home at 7 p.m. “This does not deserve a beauty prize,” says Bruijn today. “I also apologized on behalf of the senators. And I think the senators have also taken notice.”
What went wrong?
At the PvdD they have done everything they can, it sounds like at the coffee table. “We summoned our colleague from Amsterdam and rushed into the train. But she arrived just two minutes late,” senator Peter Nicolaï sighs. “Due to corona, a lack of attention may have crept in. We also did a lot digitally for a long time. We may have become less attentive to the fact that things are now going physical again.”
The same story can be heard at the GroenLinks table: a colleague from Leiden was brought to The Hague in a hurry. She was there, a few minutes before 7 p.m. But that did not meet the minimum attendance.
‘Offending the rules’
PVV senator Ilse Bezaan finds it all but embarrassing. Her faction was present yesterday with three of the five senators. “I think it’s a violation of the rules.” CDA senator Ben Knapen also thinks something of it: “Not good.” But he was there yesterday.
Martin van Rooijen (50PLUS) was not there. For a reason: “I had a relative’s funeral.”
Still of this time?
Jeroen Recourt (his PvdA party was well represented) thinks that the current minimum number of attendees (called a quorum) is no longer appropriate. “We now have to be physically present and come to the Senate to sign. After that you can in principle leave, you do not have to attend the meeting. I would be in favor of being able to sign digitally.”
It was all extra sour for Theo Hiddema. Due to a lawsuit in Alkmaar, the lawyer had already indicated that he would come later. The debate was extra important to him because he would be addressing the House for the first time. “I had already indicated to the President of the House that I would be late. That was no problem either.”
Hiddema had jumped into the taxi in haste yesterday. “But when I arrived around 8.30 pm, the door was closed. Everyone was gone. The President of the Chamber has only offered me a drink.” Was he angry? “Rather disappointed.”
Everyone agrees; This can never happen again. It was a confluence of circumstances, is the conclusion. Even though some cannot resist taking an extra strict look at D66: there were only two of the seven of that fraction.
“A few senators had work obligations. And the clerk could have put out an extra reminder that we met on Monday,” says D66 senator Boris Dittrich.
Leave your phone at home
“Perhaps the chairman should have waited a little longer than until 7 p.m.,” says VVD member Annemarie Jorritsma. “Yeah. This just isn’t good for imaging.”
The VVD party was there with enough people. Jorritsma was unable to call up extra people himself: “I had left my phone at home.”