The government of the Netherlands includes the King and the Ministers. The Cabinet of the Netherlands includes the Ministers and the State Secretaries. The Prime Minister presides over the cabinet and is also Minister of General Affairs. He is accountable for the actions of members of the Royal House. He also has an active role in international affairs.
How the Council of Ministers works
Under the Dutch constitution the Council of Ministers is composed of all government Ministers. Its job is to take decisions on overall government policy and promote the coherence of policy.
Rules of procedure
The rules of procedure deal with the composition, powers and modus operandi of the Council of Ministers. Article 26, for example, states that the matters discussed at Council of Ministers meetings are to be kept secret. The minutes of meetings are released after 20 years.
The Council of Ministers is presided over by the Prime Minister and generally meets once a week, typically on Friday. If necessary, it can also convene at other times. Sometimes a Council of Ministers meeting may be preceded by a meeting of the Council of Ministers for the Kingdom, which includes the Ministers plenipotentiary of Aruba, Curaçao and St Maarten. Meetings take place in the Trêveszaal at the Ministry of General Affairs in the Binnenhof in The Hague. On occasion, the Council of Ministers may also meet at other locations, such as the Catshuis, the Prime Minister’s official residence.
The Council of Ministers is assisted by 2 members of the civil service, a secretary and an assistant secretary. They oversee the agenda, take the minutes and draw up lists of decisions. The director-general of the Government Information Service (RVD), or his/her deputy, is also present at the meetings. The director-general is in charge of speaking to the media about what is discussed in the Council of Ministers. The RVD issues press releases on the meetings.
Complicated and more technical subjects are not addressed directly in Council of Ministers meetings, but are first discussed in a committee comprising those Ministers who are directly involved. In general, the same rules apply to these committees as to the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister also presides over committee meetings. Special ministerial consultations have been established for a number of particular topics.
In addition to the committees there are a number of ministerial consultative bodies. The main difference between these and the committees is that the former are temporary, in principle lasting for the duration of the government’s term in office. Ministerial working groups are formed to address a particular issue or subject. These, too, are chaired by the Prime Minister.