Dutch government resigns over child benefit scandal

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte

The Dutch government has resigned after thousands of families were wrongly accused of child welfare fraud and told to pay it back.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the families suffered an “unparalleled wrong”.

“Innocent people have been criminalised and their lives ruined,” he told reporters, adding that responsibility for what had gone wrong lay with the Cabinet.

The Dutch MPs admitted that tax officials, politicians, judges and civil servants had left these families powerless. Many of those affected were from an immigrant background and hundreds were plunged into financial difficulty.

The “unanimous” decision, taken at a cabinet meeting in The Hague, comes at a key moment in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Netherlands has gone into lockdown and ministers have been considering stiffer measures to halt the spread of infection.

The government will stay on in a caretaker role to tackle the pandemic until parliamentary elections in March. This is not the first time a Dutch government has resigned.

In 2002, the cabinet stood down after a report criticised ministers and the military for failing to prevent the massacre of Muslims at Srebrenica during the Bosnian war seven years earlier.