The House of Representatives regularly receives warning signs of all kinds of problems in society: from social organisations, from citizens or via the media.
An example of such a problem issue is the position of children in families where there is a threat of domestic violence. Such information constitutes grounds for MPs to ask the Government to come up with new legislation.
If children are at risk of domestic violence from one parent, the Youth Care Office, the child protection organisation, or even the police, can be contacted. However, as long as no punishable offence has been reported, nobody is actually able to solve the problem. That is why MPs called for a legal provision to allow a temporary domestic exclusion order to be issued for one parent. The minister was in agreement with the MPs that this problem needed to be addressed and instructed his civil servants to draft a bill.
- A proposal
If the Cabinet, like the House of Representatives, is of the opinion that new legislation is needed, civil servants are instructed to draft a bill. How can such a domestic exclusion order be implemented, or in other words: what exactly must be laid down by law? Questions to be answered include: who will have the authority to impose a temporary domestic exclusion order? How to organise the provision of assistance? Who is going to pay for the domestic exclusion order?
The civil servants draft the text of a bill and an accompanying explanatory memorandum. They explain in detail why the new law is deemed necessary and what its contents are. The minister has the final responsibility for these draft texts. The minister also has to convince his fellow-ministers that the bill is necessary and has to be introduced in the House of Representatives.
The assembly of all the ministers, the Council of Ministers, decides on the introduction of the bill. If the Council of Ministers agrees, the bill is introduced in Parliament. However, the Cabinet has to ask advice from the Council of State first. The Council of State checks whether the bill is well-drafted and not unconstitutional. The advice from the Council of State is followed by a response from the minister and by an amendment of the text, if necessary. After this, the proposal for the new law is introduced in the House of Representatives by "Royal Message".
The bill is first examined by a standing committee of the House of Representatives, composed of members from all the parties (which are called parliamentary groups in the House) who have detailed knowledge of a certain area. Justice, in this case. The parliamentary groups in the House comment on the bill in writing.
MPs on the committee can also ask questions, to which the minister replies in writing. That is how the bill takes its final shape, through a series of questions and answers between the House of Representatives and the minister. If the MPs and the minister do not reach agreement on every aspect, MPs can make use of a more powerful instrument. They can propose changes to the bill, which are called amendments.
- Will it be yes, no, or something else?
The preparation by the committee is followed by a debate in the Plenary Hall of the House of Representatives. The parliamentary groups in the House discuss the bill with the minister(s). Amendments put forward by MPs are also discussed.
After the debate, the MPs present take a vote on the bill in the Plenary Hall. The MPs will have been updated in advance by their specialist colleagues who did the preparatory work in the committee. A couple of days may pass between the debate and voting, because voting often takes place at a fixed time every week. Amendments are put to the vote first, followed by voting on the entire bill.
If the bill is adopted, it is submitted to the Senate.
In the Senate, too, the bill is first dealt with by a committee. Just as in the House of Representatives, followed by a debate (if deemed necessary) and voting. The Senate focuses on the practicability of the new law and considers whether the proposal is well conceived. However, the bill can no longer be amended, because the Senate has only the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the proposal.
The Senate may ask for assurances from the minister, for instance about the implementation of the law. Since the Senate has the authority to reject the bill, the minister must listen carefully to objections raised by the Senate, and sometimes give an undertaking to do something about them later.
- New rules
Once the bill has been passed by the Senate, the new law must be published in the Bulletin of Acts and Decrees. The bill is signed by the Head of State and by the minister who defended the bill. In the case of the Temporary Domestic Exclusion Order Act 2008 (Wet tijdelijk huisverbod ), the minister of Security and Justice signed the bill and was responsible for its publication in the Bulletin of Acts and Decrees. For the most part, a law comes into force though a separate decree, often on 1 January, but this may also happen on another date.
Thanks to the Temporary Domestic Exclusion Order Act a serious dispute within a family can be solved, without one parent actually being charged in court. This is in the end better for both the parents and the child.