“It’s not about the receipts for every roll of licorice the king buys.” With that sigh, PvdA MP Barbara Kathmann tried to explain to the prime minister on Thursday that the House of Representatives does want more transparency about how much money the king receives, but not in detail. “It’s about better understanding the spending of our tax money,” she said.
Last year during the debate on the King’s budget, PvdA and D66 had submitted a motion. The House then asked for more clarity about the 5.1 million euros that King Willem-Alexander receives for personnel and material expenses – a kind of expense allowance called the B component. The A component is the so-called benefit, the salary, which for Willem-Alexander exceeds 1 million euros.
Last year, the Chamber wanted to know: what does the king of that B component do? And secondly: is that amount still appropriate? Couldn’t that be evaluated every five years, as advised by the Court of Audit?
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The prime minister promised to implement the motion in a “sporty” manner. But the answer, which came last week, disappointed the House of Representatives. Outgoing Prime Minister Rutte said he had “no room” to provide insight into what the king spends that money on.
He encountered, he wrote, “with the limits of the Constitution.” It states that the King sets up his own House (Article 41), so makes his own assessments about what the money is spent on. Details about this would quickly affect his privacy (Article 10).
Rutte said in the debate on Thursday that he had been “a little too enthusiastic” in his commitment. “If I sum it up domestically: the exercise of the office is linked to the wearer,” he said. “The king is king 24 hours a day, even when he is not strictly formally at work.” And so it is not possible to go into further details on what falls under the B component, except for a list of about three hundred people – including the equerry and the grandmaster – whose salaries are billable to the State.
MP Joost Sneller (D66) was annoyed. “The prime minister actually says that the B component can never be evaluated.” What irritated him further was that Prime Minister Rutte did not add a ‘decision note’ to his answer. Since this summer, it must be clear in cabinet decisions which advice a minister has received, so that the House can see how a decision has been reached. “Hasn’t the Prime Minister taken any outside advice?” asked Sneller.
Going into too much detail about the advice he received also touches the limits of the Constitution, according to Rutte. It would be contrary to the unity of the Crown. In other words: then there could be differences of opinion between the king and the cabinet.
Not all MPs wanted more transparency of the King’s expenditure, however. Rudmer Heerema (VVD) saw “no reason to intervene in the system”. He said he understood that the royal family costs money, and thought that the realization that it concerns public funds is present with Crown Princess Amalia. It pays its A and B components back into the state treasury as long as it does not provide anything in return.
Amalia waives benefit for the time being