Senate: SP consults other political groups over parliamentary enquiry into Iraq

4 April 2007

Senate: SP consults other political groups over parliamentary enquiry into Iraq

The SP's Senators will shortly consult Senators from other political groups on the possibility and desirability of holding a parliamentary enquiry into Dutch involvement in the war in Iraq. This was announced, during the debate on the agreement which formed the basis for the new coalition government, by Tiny Kox, who chairs the SP's group in the Senate. Premier Balkenende neither discounted nor encouraged the proposal.

Now that Parliament's main legislative chamber, the 'Tweede Kamer', has allowed its hands to be tied and will conduct no such enquiry, it would be a positive step if the Senate were for the first time in history to make use of its constitutional right to conduct independent parliamentary enquiries, Senator Kox contended. Whether an enquiry will actually take place, it's too early to say. The SP is seeking talks in the short term with other groups in order to examine whether or not they share its view or could be persuaded to do so.

Although Christian Democrat chair Jos Werner would rather no such enquiry took place, he promised to look seriously at the SP's proposal. The Labour (PvdA) group does not reject the proposed enquiry out of hand, but doesn't believe that a majority will be in favour, arguing that first must be held a comprehensive debate in the Senate on the future involvement of the Netherlands in military interventions. As PvdA chair Han Nooten sees it, this would also involve looking at the past: 'There could also be questions put which could be put on the agenda by means other than a parliamentary enquiry,’ he said. The Green Left group and the small centrist liberal party D66 are in favour of a parliamentary enquiry, while the right-wing liberals of the VVD are, as things stand, against. Shortly, however, the configuration of the Senate will change. The Netherlands' upper house – the 'First Chamber', to translate its name literally, though it is also popularly known as the Senate - is indirectly elected. Provincial councillors, themselves elected last month, will soon vote on its composition. The vote, however, is a formality, it being already known that the two right-wing parties - CDA and VVD – will no longer enjoy a majority, while the SP will see its membership triple, to twelve out of a total of seventy-five Senators in all.

Minister-President (Prime Minister) Balkenende recognised in his answer to questions put by the SP that the Senate has indeed an independent constitutional right to launch a parliamentary enquiry and promised that the government would respect any decision the upper house might take in relation to this. Just because the governing parties' representatives in the lower house are preventing it from holding such an enquiry, this should not stop the Senate from holding its own, the Premier stated, though he would rather it directed its energies towards the future than the past.

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