With the summer boating season in full swing, Norwegians learned Thursday that they won’t be required to wear life vests on board pleasure craft after all. The Labour Party, which had proposed mandatory use of life vests, lost majority support in Parliament after one of its own former government partners threw the measure overboard.
The Socialist Left party (SV) held the decisive vote on the issue. “We believe Labour’s proposal for an overall requirement had major weaknesses,” Torgeir Knag Fylkesnes of SV told state broadcaster NRK. He said the party panned to put forth its own proposal for life vest use that it thought would attract more support: Making it mandatory for children to wear life-vests as well as all adults in the same boat.
The Greens party (Miljøpartiet de Grønne) also voted against Labour’s proposal, providing unusual support for the conservative government’s decision not to make life-vest use mandatory either.
Search and rescue organizations including Redningsselskapet were disappointed, claiming that life vests save lives, and can reduce the number of fatal boating accidents in Norway. In 1995, the parliament passed a law requiring pleasure boat owners to have life vests for all passengers on board. They weren’t, however, required to use them.
Two years ago, the government ministry for business and trade that then was led by the Labour Party appointed a working group to study the life-vest issue. It was made up of representatives from the police, Redningsselskapet and an employers organization for the tourism industry, NHO Reiseliv, who concluded that the government should require everyone on board pleasure boats to wear a life vest.
Monica Mæland, the new government minister from the Conservatives in charge of the issue, disagreed and said in March that the government would not introduce a proposal for mandatory life-vest usage. “It is important to use life vests, but making it mandatory isn’t the way to go,” Mæland said, refusing to go along with the working group’s recommendation.
That inspired Labour’s proposal, which had support from the Center Party, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Party, the latter two generally serving as support parties for the government. SV’s vote against it, though, swung the balance.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Rikke Lind, a former top politician for Labour herself who now serves as secretary general for Redingsselskapet. “I had hoped that the government had ambitions to make Norway a frontrunner for safety at sea. I view the handling of this matter as clumsy and lacking serious intent.”