AMSTERDAM, May 18 — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte today acknowledged that for years he has deleted some of the text messages he received before passing the ones he deemed important on to bureaucrats to be preserved for government archives.

Opposition politicians questioned whether Rutte’s actions were legal and called for a debate.

Rutte’s habit was first reported by newspaper De Volkskrant, which uncovered it as part of freedom of information requests about Rutte’s actions at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

At a news conference in The Hague, Rutte denied wrongdoing and said part of the reason he had deleted the messages was that until very recently he had used an old Nokia phone without much memory, which forced him to delete messages.

“I’m not much of a smartphone guy,” Rutte said, adding that he now has obtained one.

He asserted that while important government communications must be preserved, it was not his personal responsibility to keep them.

“The guideline says that it’s up to the person himself who has to do it, so I have to decide myself whether a message is important,” Rutte told reporters.

“That means in practice that I don’t pass on anything that’s personal, or messages that say ‘call me’ or ‘the appointment is delayed’ but when there’s something that really has content in it, then I send it on.”

Opposition leaders Atje Kuiken of the Labour Party and Jesse Klaver of the Green Left Party called for a debate in parliament, with Klaver saying in a tweet Rutte’s actions were “possibly in conflict with the law”. Far right lawmaker Geert Wilders quipped that Rutte’s Cabinet should be “deleted”. — Reuters