Hugo de Jonge survives debate on dodgy face mask deal
Minister Hugo de Jonge survived the debate about the face mask deal with Sywert van Lienden. A motion of no confidence, tabled by the PvdA "with a heavy heart," received broad support from the opposition but did not get a majority. The coalition parties and a few others, including the SGP, supported the CDA Minister. 52 MPs voted in favor of the no-confidence motion and 72 against.
According to Attje Kuiken (PvdA), Minister De Jonge was "not honest about his precise involvement, not timely, and not complete with the information" he shared about the deal. Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks) thought that the Minister has not said goodbye to the "old administrative culture." He only provided the information requested by parliament at the very last minute. The motion was also supported by DENK, SP, Groep Van Haga, PvdD, BBB, PVV, and FvD. Laurens Dassen of Volt, independent MP Pieter OMtzigt, and JA21 MP Derk Jan Eppink also voted in favor.
De Jonge offered his "sincere apologies" for incompletely informing parliament. He denied having been involved in the conclusion of the 100 million euro deal with Van Lienden. He said he could have avoided a lot of confusion if he had been more open about it.
That was enough for the coalition and a few other parties. They first want to wait for a major investigation into the face mask deal to be completed. Deloitte is investigating. "At the moment, you cannot yet have the full verdict," said Mirjam Bikker (ChristenUnie). Kees van der Staaij (SGP) called the debate an "interim score."
Parliament debated the face mask deal all day long. It was already a novelty under constitutional law that De Jonge was there at his own request. The Sywert-deal is the responsibility of Minister Conny Helder for Long-term Care. Van der Staaij did not like that. He spoke of an "uncomfortable and unusual debate."
At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, there was a major shortage of personal protective equipment. Van Lienden asked the Ministry of Health for permission to supply face masks. Van Lienden always said he was doing it "for nothing," but afterward, it turned out that he and two business partners had earned millions from the deal.
De Jonge always denied being involved in the deal, but released documents painted a different picture. He was definitely involved. He says his involvement was to prevent Van Lienden from competing with his MInistry in the hunt for protective gear.
Minister Helder also faced criticism from the opposition. They felt she did not adhere to the guidelines for sharing information with parliament. She did, however, send documents to parliament at De Jonge's request. The anger fizzled out after Helder apologized.
The opposition parties also criticized the attitude of CDA MP Joba van den Berg during the debate. Klaver (GroenLinks) accused her of having her opinion about her party colleague "ready" even before the debate started. "How many interruptions did you use today?" Klaver wanted to know. She responded: "You probably counted that, Mr. Klaver, and then you made sure that I didn't interrupt." Klaver said that he found the CDA's attitude "really disappointing."
Fleur Agema (PVV) said that "all those CDA members" actively did their best to connect Sywert van Lienden with the Ministry of Health. She called it "too embarrassing" that Van der Berg defended De Jonge.
Reporting by ANP.