Who signs Acts of Parliament and Royal Decrees?

Acts passed by Parliament and Royal Decrees are always signed by the King and countersigned by one or more ministers and/or state secretaries in confirmation of their acceptance of ministerial responsibility.

If the King is ill

Under the Dutch constitutional system no one may sign Acts of Parliament or Royal Decrees on behalf of the King. Even when the King is ill or is abroad on holiday or a state visit, urgent documents are presented to him for signature.

This used to be done by fax, but today documents are sent by electronic means. The King signs the document wherever he is and emails it back to the government, so that the legislative process can continue. The King then signs the original document on his return to the Netherlands.

A regent in exceptional circumstances

If for some reason the head of state is unable to exercise the royal prerogative for a time, parliament will appoint a regent, in accordance with article 37 of the Constitution, who may sign Acts of Parliament and Royal Decrees. Until provision has been made for the exercise of the prerogative, for example until a regent has been appointed, the Council of State exercises the royal prerogative (article 38 of the Constitution).

The Kingdom Act of 4 December 2013 provides for Queen Máxima to be appointed regent for the Kingdom until the heir to the throne, Princess Catharina-Amalia, may exercise the royal prerogative on reaching the age of 18 (article 33 of the Constitution).

The last regent was Princess Juliana, who temporarily took over the duties of her mother Queen Wilhelmina in 1948. The last time the Council of State assumed royal authority was in 1889 to 1890, when King Willem III was declared too ill to rule. 

How many Acts of Parliament and Royal Decrees does the King sign annually?

Each year the King signs over 3,000 Acts of Parliament, Orders in Council and Royal Decrees. During the legislative process Acts and Orders in Council, in particular, are submitted to him several times:

  • before being submitted to the Council of State for its advisory opinion;
  • before being introduced in the House of Representatives (only Acts of Parliament);
  • to be given the royal assent.

In other words, the King signs far more than 3,000 state documents every year.