Ministerial responsibility

Under the Constitution, the monarch and the ministers together make up the government. Since 1848, the ministers, not the monarch, have been politically responsible for what the monarch says and does.

Bills and royal decrees

Bills and royal decrees that have been passed by Parliament may enter into force once they have been signed by both the King and the responsible minister or state secretary. By countersigning, members of the government confirm that they, and not the King, are responsible for the legislation.


Under King Willem I the role of ministers was to carry out the King’s wishes. Since Parliament had only limited powers in relation to legislation and could only accept or reject a budget, it wanted more influence over government policy. The first step was the revision of the Constitution in 1840. This introduced the principle of criminal ministerial responsibility, which applies to actions that are incompatible with the Constitution or other statute law. The 1840 Constitution also introduced the rule that members of the government must countersign legislation. 1848 saw the introduction of the principle of political ministerial responsibility for the King’s actions, since when ministers and state secretaries are accountable to Parliament.