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Most bills (a proposal for a new law) are introduced in Parliament by the Government. The House of Representatives can adopt, reject or amend a bill. An MP can also take the initiative to put forward a proposal for a new law, a so-called initiative bill. Not until after the Senate has also adopted the proposal does a bill become law.

European directives

The European Union makes rules, too. These are laid down in so-called directives. After all, it is important for the cooperation between the countries of Europe that some issues are dealt with in the same way everywhere. This is why the Dutch Government will incorporate European directives in Dutch legislation. The Government and the House of Representatives can exercise little influence on the content of laws of this kind, because all EU member states are held to comply with the European directives.

  1. Bills

    If the ministers agree on the draft bill, it is submitted for advice to the Council of State, the major advisory body to the Government. The Council of State checks the draft bill against contravention of other laws or treaties and examines its impact on the citizens.

    MPs may request the Government to draft a bill, but sometimes the Government is not willing to do so. In such cases, one or more MPs can take the initiative to draft a bill. This is called an initiative bill. Assistance in drafting the bill is provided by the Legislation Office of the House of Representatives or by officials from the Government department in question.

  2. Advice from the Council of State

    If the ministers agree on the draft bill, it is submitted for advice to the Council of State, the major advisory body to the Government. The Council of State checks the draft bill against contravention of other laws or treaties and examines its impact on the citizens.

    The drafter of a bill does not need to follow the advice of the Council of State, but will do so in most cases and amend the text. The Council of State also advises on initiative bills presented by MPs. A draft bill is confidential as long as it is under consideration by the Council of State.

  3. Royal Message

    A Government bill is conveyed to the King together with the advice of the Council of State. The so-called Royal Message is appended, i.e. the official text by which the King presents a bill to the House of Representatives. The bill is now made public.

    The Royal Message

    We send you herewith, for consideration, a proposal for law (title).
    The explanatory notes that accompany the proposal for law specify the grounds on which it is based.
    We commend you to God's Holy Protection.

    The Hague, (date),

    Willem-Alexander

  4. Standing Committee: preparatory examination

    The bill and the accompanying advice from the Council of State are first examined by a Standing Committee of the House of Representatives. All political groups can propose changes to the bill, make remarks and pose questions.

    A Standing Committee may ask experts and stakeholders from society to comment on controversial plans. The House of Representative draws up a report on the examination of the bill by the Standing Committee. The minister in charge replies to this report by means of a memorandum of reply. Both documents are public.

  5. Plenary debate: amending and adopting

    After consideration by a Standing Committee the bill is defended in a plenary meeting of the House by those who proposed it: usually the member(s) of the Cabinet in charge, but sometimes one or more MPs (initiative bill). In the debate about the bill, the various parties try to convince one another of their respective views.

    If MPs only partly agree with a bill, they can propose changes to it, which are called amendments. After consideration of the bill in the plenary meeting, MPs will vote on the amendments and the bill itself.

  6. Senate: yes or no?

    After a bill has been adopted by the House of Representatives it is submitted to the Senate. The Senate examines and discusses the bill in great detail and may only adopt or reject it. The Senate does not have the right to make changes to a bill by proposing amendments.

    A specialist committee of the Senate examines the bill. If so desired, a plenary debate follows. Eventually, the Senators vote on the bill. The Senate can only adopt or reject a bill. Senators cannot make changes to the bill, as they do not have the right of amendment. If the Senate has any objections against a specific part of a bill, it can reject the bill, although this rarely happens. If the Senate threatens to reject a bill, the Government can prevent this by introducing an amended bill, a so-called “novelle”.

  7. The new law comes into force

    When a bill has also been adopted by the Senate, the King or Queen will sign it and the Minister in charge will countersign it. The bill has now become a law.

    It is not the King or Queen, but the Minister who is responsible for the contents of the law. Finally, the Minister of Justice signs the law and publishes it in the Bulletin of Acts and Decrees, the official Government Gazette. The new law has now come into force.

  8. The law in actual practice

    Departments and local authorities together constitute the country’s administration. They implement the laws, but the Government remains responsible. The House of Representatives verifies on behalf of the Dutch people that the Government carries out its work properly.