On May 30, 2022, Member of Parliament Van Haga (Groep van Haga) submitted a series of twenty questions to the Minister of Health, Welfare, and Sport regarding high-risk bio-laboratories and gain-of-function research. The responses to the questions by Minister Kuipers (VWS) have not yet been published. The Biosecurity Office will announce the letter with answers as soon as it becomes available.
Why do Members of Parliament ask questions?
All members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate have the right to ask questions. This right stems from the need for information to carry out their supervisory role over the decisions of the cabinet. Questions can be posed both in writing and orally. In a parliamentary year, a total of about 3,000 parliamentary questions are asked to ministers and state secretaries. A significant portion of these questions is based on media reports. Members of Parliament also use the right to ask questions to bring incidents to the attention of the political arena and to highlight the topics they consider important (as a political party).
How are parliamentary questions answered?
Regularly, Members of Parliament ask written questions about topics related to biosecurity. The responsible minister or state secretary must answer these questions within a period of three weeks. However, if this is not possible, the responsible minister or state secretary must inform the Speaker of the House of Representatives in writing. This has also happened with the aforementioned parliamentary questions. But why does it take so long to provide answers? The answers are prepared by the officials who work on the subject at the relevant ministry. Often, additional information needs to be gathered in order to answer the questions accurately. In the case of a topic like biosecurity, multiple ministers are involved, and the answers will need to be coordinated between different ministries. Once there are draft answers that the officials agree upon, they must still be approved by senior officials and the minister or state secretary before they can ultimately be sent to the House of Representatives.
Letter with parliamentary questions: https://www.tweedekamer.nl/kamerstukken/kamervragen/detail?id=2022Z10583&did=2022D21828 (Dutch)
Letter of postponement from Minister Kuipers (Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport): https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/kamerstukken/2022/06/15/uitstelbrief-antwoorden-kamervragen-over-hoog-risico-bio-laboratoria-en-gain-of-function-onderzoek (Dutch)