Signing Acts of Parliament and Royal Decrees

As required by the Constitution, Acts of Parliament and Royal Decrees are always signed both by the King and by one or more ministers or state secretaries. The King’s Office submits such documents to the King for his signature on a daily basis, and briefs him on their contents.

King Willem-Alexander signing an Act of Parliament.
Image: ANP
King Willem-Alexander signing an Act of Parliament.

Every year, the King signs some 2,500 Acts of Parliament, Orders in Council and Royal Decrees applying to individuals or groups. Examples of Royal Decrees include the granting of royal decorations, ambassador appointments and the appointments of senior civil servants.

During the legislative process, Acts and Orders in Council, in particular, come before the King 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);
  • when being given the royal assent.

Consequently, the King actually signs far more than the 2,500 state documents referred to above.

If the King is on holiday

All these documents must be signed by the King in person. No one may sign on his behalf as in the Dutch constitutional system he has no deputy. Consequently, even if the King is abroad the King’s Office sends documents urgently requiring a signature to him by electronic means. The King signs the document and sends it back to the Office, after which the legislative process, for example, can proceed. The King signs the original document itself on his return to the Netherlands.

Once the King has signed an Act or Royal Decree, it is countersigned by the responsible minister or state secretary in confirmation of their acceptance of ministerial responsibility.

After publication in the Bulletin of Acts and Decrees, legislative documents are kept at the King’s Office until the time comes for them to be transferred to the National Archives.

The King’s role in the legislative process

Under the Constitution and statute law, the King has a role to play at various stages of the legislative process: 

  • After bills and draft Orders in Council have been discussed in cabinet, they are submitted by the King to the Advisory Division of the Council of State.
  • On the basis of the Council of State’s advisory opinion, the responsible minister or state secretary draws up a report to the King and submits it to him, if necessary after further discussion in cabinet. If the document is a bill, it is then sent to the House of Representatives with a royal message. If it is an order in council, the King signs it as evidence of the royal assent.
  • The King gives a bill the royal assent after it has been debated in the House of Representatives; the bill thus becomes law.