Senate poses new questions on Iraq war

3 February 2009

Senate poses new questions on Iraq war

On 17th February several of the political groups in the Senate will put new questions to the government regarding the controversial Dutch involvement in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The cabinet's decision earlier this week to establish its own Committee of Enquiry has been noted by the Senate. For the time being senators are assuming that their questions will, as is customary, receive a timely answer from the government.

Arjen Vliegenthart Recently the Senate was extremely unhappy with the way in which a hundred or so questions from five political groups of left, centre-left and centre were answered. SP Senator Arjan Vliegenthart, initiator of the remarkable series of questions, described the answers as "a hundred times nothing". Before Premier Balkenende came out with his proposal that the questions be passed on to an "independent committee of enquiry", the Senate had decided to put a further, supplementary series to the government. The government's new initiatives make no difference to this, the Senate decided today. If it is the case that the political groups of the three current governing parties – the Christian Democrats (CDA), Labour (PvdA) and Christian Union – want to wait until (at the very latest) 1st November, other groups see no reason to give the government yet another nine months. For them, the committee of enquiry offers no reason to put on the brakes. The SP has said that it sees no reason to put further questions if the situation demands it. "Every member of each house of parliament had the right to put questions and the government has the duty to answer them. That has always been the case and for us it remains the case."

The SP's senators announced today that, in the meantime, they would be meeting with other political groups to discuss preparations for a possible parliamentary enquiry conducted by the Senate. There was a majority for such an enquiry, but Labour's senators have for the time being reversed their position, to the great disappointment of most other groups. "The PvdA has always said that it is in favour of an enquiry," said Vliegenthart. "In the two houses of parliament a majority has recently emerged which backs this, now that the VVD has come round." The reversal of position by the right wing VVD, the second biggest opposition party after the SP, has been undermined by Labour's own change of heart, however. "Now the PvdA has decided not to play ball and is once again willing to wait nine months. This is extremely regrettable, and I also don't understand what Labour hopes to achieve with this long delay. That goes just as well for the Christian Democrats. The longer the CDA and PvdA wait, the more problems they will have, and soon. In the meantime we'll simply continue. The enquiry will after all happen in the end in any case, either here in the Senate or over the way in the Lower House."

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