The parliamentary committee of inquiry is a particular type of temporary committee of the House. The parliamentary inquiry is the most powerful instrument the Dutch parliament has at its disposal to carry out its duty to scrutinize the work of the Government. Over the past thirty years, various parliamentary committees of inquiry gained fame. They always managed to bring new facts to light.
Witnesses called by a committee of inquiry are obliged to appear before the committee. This holds true for ministers and state secretaries as well. Witnesses are questioned under oath. This means that they can be prosecuted for perjury if it turns out that they have not been telling the truth. Hearings are held in public, a process that often takes several weeks. They attract a lot of attention from the public and the media. The House of Representatives realises that the public nature of the hearings may be painful for the witnesses. But the House is of the opinion that the public nature of the hearings is typical of the parliamentary inquiry.
In the past thirty years, the House of Representatives carried out ten parliamentary inquires. A parliamentary inquiry is not only held to establish who is responsible for what has gone wrong, but also to get a clear picture of an issue, in order to develop improved policy.
Parliamentary inquiry into the Fyra
The parliamentary committee of inquiry into the Fyra was set up on 19 December 2013. Fyra was the name of the planned high-speed rail connection between Amsterdam and Brussels. Due to problems with the Italian build high-speed trains the original plans could not be executed. After a number of incidents and inspections the trains have no longer been allowed to be operated in the Netherlands and Belgium.
The first issue of the inquiry is how the choice of the operator of the high-speed rail connection between Amsterdam and Brussels was made. The other issues are how the choice of the Italian Fyra trains was made, how the building process of these trains was supervised and how the inspection of the first train units was prepared and carried out after delivery.
Parliamentary inquiry into housing associations
The parliamentary committee of inquiry into Housing Associations was set up on 16 April 2013. The House commissioned the committee to carry out an investigation into the structure and the functioning of the housing association sector. The inquiry was triggered by the financial problems of a large housing association and a number of incidents with other associations. The aim is to make an assessment of the system in order to contribute to the development of future policy in this area. The investigation carried out by the committee of inquiry spans a period of approximately 20 years. The starting point is the further privatization of the housing agencies in the early 1990s.
The inquiry was carried out in several stages: literature study, partial investigations and analysis of environmental aspects, closed and public hearings, final report and conclusion of the inquiry. The committee of inquiry concluded its inquiry in autumn 2014.