New integrity rules for Ministers and State Secretaries – good news?


Last week, the Council of State (RvS) issued its advice on the proposed bill establishing rules for former members of cabinet, which was approved by the council of ministers in mid-2023. With the bill, the cabinet wants to prevent (the risk of) conflicts of interest in the subsequent career of ministers. The timing is salient given the ever-depleting ministerial team of the outgoing Rutte IV cabinet. But what exactly does the proposal entail – and should we welcome it or not?

Stricter requirements for follow-up positions of cabinet members

The new legal rules for cabinet members should provide framework for follow-up functions and lobbying activities after leaving office. This applies to sitting ministers and state secretaries as well as former ministers, so-called “former” ministers. Thus, a cooling-off period of two years will be established during which former ministers will be required to seek advice from an independent board as to whether they may accept a new, paid position in the private sector. The advice is not binding but will be made public if ignored.

In addition, the bill proposes to establish a lobbying ban. Until November 2021, former ministers were already prohibited from lobbying the ministry for which the respective minister was responsible for two years. This was subsequently expanded to include policy areas covered by other ministries with which the minister had active involvement while in office. This new bill also legislates the lobbying ban. Finally, the proposal regulates a so-called “revolving door ban” in which former ministers may not be employed by their former ministry for two years. They also may not accept paid, commercial assignments there.

Council of State advice – critical comments

In response to the Interior minister’s bill, the RvS understands lobbying and revolving door bans. However, it does have reservations about the mandatory advisory obligation for follow-up positions. It is feared that this will lead to further legalization and may be counterproductive. After all, the goal is for administrators to ask themselves whether a next step is desirable and conflicts with integrity – not whether it is possible according to the (loopholes in) the law. Should the advise obligation still be instituted, the RvS recommends that the prime minister also takes a clear and public position based on the advice. This would ensure clear ministerial responsibility and enable accountability to the House of Representatives.

The RvS also warns about the perspective of (candidate) ministers. It is in the public interest that a sufficient number of suitable persons, with diverse backgrounds and social experience, should always be found willing to become ministers or state secretaries. In doing so, they must also be willing to accept the associated risks, such as premature departure. It is no secret that, for various reasons, a cabinet post has become increasingly unpopular in recent years. It is therefore desirable, according to the RvS, to also include that perspective in the considerations for such policies.

What about the House of Representatives?

Although instituting stricter rules for ministers is a sensible and widely supported measure, it only regulates a small part of public administration. Top civil servants and members of parliament remain completely outside of this legislation. However, here too the necessary debatable steps have taken place in recent years. Both from and to The Hague – because people still seem to forget that the much criticized “revolving door” turns both ways.

So far, however, the House of Representatives is showing little willingness to regulate itself; whereas a motion to impose an immediate ban on lobbying and revolving doors for the current cabinet was passed by a large majority in the House last month, a motion by the SP to institute a cooling off period for members of parliament as well was actually voted down by a large majority in the middle of last year. This motion would be an interesting addition to the current policy; after all, should not the same rules also apply here?


Now that the advice of the RvS has been published, the rules for ministers are ready to be discussed in the House of Representatives. In light of the comments made earlier, these discussions will be very interesting-perhaps, whether forced or not, it will also force the House to reflect on its own regulation. All in all, it’s a good thing The Hague is combating (the risk of) conflicts of interest more proactively. Even if only for perception and public trust in politics.

"The new legal rules for cabinet members should provide framework for follow-up functions and lobbying activities after leaving office."

Paul Schrama

Senior Account Executive

Public matters

Interested in our service? Contact us.