Controversy over Dutch kilometre charge poll

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Health Minister Ab Klink says the cabinet will have the final decision about the controversial plan to introduce a "pay-to-drive" kilometre charge for motorists.


Speaking on the TV programme Buitenhof, he effectively distanced himself from Transport Minister and fellow Christian Democrat Camiel Eurlings who said on Friday that, as far as he was concerned, the issue would largely be decided by the result of a poll of its members being held by the Dutch Royal Touring Club (ANWB) and he would withdraw the scheme if it did not have the support of the motoring association.

Mr Klink emphasized that the Transport Minister carries the main responsibility for any decision and remarked that he did not believe his colleague would shirk that burden. He assumed Mr Eurlings was simply pointing out that public support is an important factor in introducing new legislation, but he did not believe the cabinet's decision "would depend on a yes or no from the ANWB".

Political responsibility
Kees Vendrik, MP for the opposition Green Left, also appearing on Buitenhof, had a different opinion of Mr Eurlings motives. "Minister Eurlings sees the weak position of the cabinet and thinks: once this lot are no longer in power I'll be identified with this law. He's no longer prepared to take responsibility for the bill he launched two months ago". 

On Monday morning ANWB director Guido van Woerkom said on TV that the poll was "never intended as a referendum" and his organisation only wanted to advise the minister.

No representative vote
The ANWB vote has been criticised as "not representative" by well-known Dutch pollster Maurice de Hond since only 37 percent of ANWB members have indicated they will cast a vote. He points out that, by explicitly linking his decision to the poll, the minister is effectively providing opponents of the kilometre charge with an incentive to take part.

In the meantime, the Dutch daily De Telegraaf conducted its own poll over the weekend. Nearly 140,00 people had responded by Sunday evening, most of them opposed to the road pricing scheme. Most readers were worried about the costs, while many did not believe it would solve the problem of traffic jams and others regarded it as an invasion of their privacy.

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