Government working party says tax on gas for homeowners should rise 75%

The tax on gas has to go up 75% and the tax on electricity should be cut, to encourage more people to give up gas, according to one of the groups looking at ways to reach new climate change targets in the Netherlands. By pushing up gas prices and cutting the cost of electricity, more people will be likely to install expensive heat pumps to keep their homes warm, which need to use electricity on cold days, the working party said. There are five groups of experts looking at ways to reduce the Netherlands' dependence on fossil fuels in different sectors. The group looking at the built environment, led by former Labour leader Diederik Samsom, has recommended the gas tax hikes. Others are focusing on transport, industry, electricity generation and agriculture. Targets The plans by Samsom's group, published in the Volkskrant on Thursday, are to be finalised by mid-July. The negotiators include green groups, local authorities, housing corporations, home owners, unions, and the building sector. The government has already decided that no new homes built after July should be connected to the gas grid. Households currently pay a tax of 26 cents per cubic metre of gas and 10.5 cents for a kilowatt of electricity. Samsom proposes increasing that to 46 cents on gas and cutting it to 6.5 cents on electricity over the next 12 years. Companies currently pay one to six cents in tax per cubic metre of gas, but that should be brought into line with private households, the working party says. Climate plan The government is set to introduce a new target of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by 49% by 2030 after seven of the biggest parties in parliament agreed to set new limits. The government has also set a target of ensuring one in four Dutch homes no longer relies on gas for heating or cooking by 2030.  More >

House prices reach a new record

House prices in the Netherlands have now reached their highest ever level, surpassing the previous peak of August 2008, before the start of the economic crisis. House prices in May were an average 9% up on a year ago, according to new figures from the national statistics office CBS and land registry Kadaster. The average price of a property changing hands was €283,945, although there are extremely wide regional variations. House prices have now risen 28% since their lowest point in June 2013. In total, 18,237 homes changed hands in May, up 2,000 on April.  More >

Regulated marijuana trial should be bigger

The government's plans to experiment with regulated marijuana cultivation should be carried out far more widely than in just six to 10 local authority areas, the government  commission working on the plans has said. The current plan is not wide enough to be properly representative and to allow methodological analysis, and would, therefore, be pretty pointless, the commission said on Tuesday afternoon. The experiment with regulated growing is supposed to remove the gray area between the sale of marijuana in council-licenced coffee shops and the illegal cultivation and supply. The commission also recommends that the state should decide who should grow the marijuana. They, in turn, should be capable of meeting high standards and growing a variety of different types of weed - at least 15 types of marijuana and 10 different varieties of hashish. Users panel The list of the different varieties would be drawn up together with coffee shop owners and a panel of users. Coffee shops currently have a much wider selection on offer and some 20% of users prefer hashish from Moroccoa, Afghanistan and Nepal. Foreign hashish will not be allowed during the experiment and 'it will be a challenge to produce this at home,' commission chairman Andre Knotternerus said. The commission also says action must be taken to ensure the marijuana is moved around as little as possible, to prevent drugs gangs getting involved. Stock The commission says cannabis cafes, known as coffee shops, should be able to have enough stock for a day's sales in house. Currently they may not have more than 500 grammes on the premises. RTL correspondent Frits Wester said it is notable that the recommendations go much further than the plans included in the coalition agreement. In particular, the commission's belief that the experiments should not be stopped after four years if successful, is worthy of note, he said. More details about the trials, including which authorities can take part, will be published later in the year.  Health minister Bruno Bruins and justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus say they will respond to the recommendations shortly. Read the report (Dutch only)  More >

Supermarkets under fire over suppliers

Of every euro consumers spend in the two largest Dutch supermarket chains on food like avocado and prawns, only eight cents goes back to workers and small-scale farmers in the supply chain in the developing world, according to a new report by Oxfam Novib. Twenty years ago developing world suppliers received 10 cents on every euro spent, the report said. Dutch supermarkets score considerably worse on this count than supermarkets in Germany, the UK and US, the three other countries featured in the report. The report covers the purchasing policies of 16 large supermarket chains in Europe and the US. ‘Millions of women and men who produce our food are trapped in poverty and face brutal working conditions, despite billion-dollar profits in the food industry’, the report said. Working conditions Oxfam Novib, the Dutch non-profit involved said Ahold Delhaize, Jumbo and Lidl scored low on the policy over labour conditions and pay in the developing world. But Ahold Delhaize’s Albert Heijn unit said it was not true that the company did nothing to improve the lot of the suppliers and that it is working with its partners to improve conditions. ‘We invite Oxfam to help us develop improvements towards a solution,’ the company said in a statement. Turnover at Dutch supermarkets is expected to top €39bn this year up from €37.5bn in 2017, sector organisation CBL said. Read the report Behind the Barcodes (English) Meanwhile, Dutch farm minister Carola Schouten is planning to open a hotline for farmers to report cases in which they have been put under pressure to cut prices by the supermarkets. She is also planning to involve the competition commission to look into possible cartels. The Oxfam Novib report said five supermarkets in the Netherlands control 77% of the grocery market.  More >

1,000 fake webshops closed down

Dutch consumers lobby group Consumentenbond has succeeded in forcing a further 1,000 fake websites targeting Dutch consumers offline since March, the organisation said on Thursday. SIDN which registers domain names in the Netherlands told Consumentenbond that two large foreign issuers of domain names had pulled the suspect websites. In March, 850 names were removed from the internet, following the publication of a list of 2,000 suspect companies. The websites were offering brand name clothing or luxury products at huge discounts. But in reality they were selling counterfeit items or failed to deliver completely. Nearly all the 2000 webshops identified by the Consumentenbond were registered at only four domain names companies.  The shops removed were all under the aegis of US-based GoDaddy or PDR of India, both domain name brokers.  More >

Over one in four households have no car

A full 27% of Dutch households had no car, moped, motor bike, scooter or van in 2016, the national statistics agency CBS said on Thursday. In the three million households in the lowest income group, 46% had no form of motorised transport while 27% did not have a driving licence. But nearly all higher-income households had a car, the CBS said. Most households without motorised transport were in urban areas where 63% had low disposable incomes. Car-less household were most often found in cities with big student populations. In Groningen, for example, 43.9% of households had a low disposable income and thus had no motorised transport. The northern student city was followed by Wageningen (39.8%) and Delft with 38.3%. Of the households with motorised transport, 95.3% had a car and 30% had two or more cars.  More >

Yoga is booming in the Netherlands

The number of yoga schools in the Netherlands has soared by 124% over the past five years and there are now nearly 6,400 schools and private teachers offering yoga lessons, according to research by RTL Z. Most of them - 5,875 - are self-employed teachers, the figures, which RTL Z obtained from the Chambers of Commerce, show. The Dutch yoga teachers organisation said last year that 800,000 people in the Netherlands regularly take part in yoga. One teacher, who began in 2015, told RTL Z: 'People do yoga because it works, particularly in these times. People are becoming over-sensitised, they work too much, their phones ping continually and they have no time left for themselves. Yoga helps you to become calm.'  More >