Diplomats owe more than £143m in London congestion charges

The US Embassy owes the most in congestion charges
Diplomats are not exempt from paying the congestion charge [BBC]

Diplomats owe more than £143m to Transport for London (TfL) for unpaid congestion charges, figures reveal.

The US Embassy owes the largest amount at almost £14m, the Embassy of Japan owes over £10.1m and meanwhile Togo owes £40.

The figures from TfL relate to unpaid fees and fines accrued by diplomats between the launch of the congestion charge in 2003 and the end of last year.

In a statement the American Embassy said it believed they were exempt from the charge claiming it is a tax.

'Stubborn minority'

The scheme involves a £15 daily fee for driving within an area of central London between 07:00 and 18:00 on weekdays, and between noon and 18:00 on weekends and bank holidays.

There are discounts and exemptions for various groups of people and vehicles, such as residents, taxis and fully electric cars.

TfL said in a statement: "We and the UK government are clear that the congestion charge is a charge for a service and not a tax.

"This means that diplomats are not exempt from paying it.

"The majority of embassies in London do pay the charge, but there remains a stubborn minority who refuse to do so, despite our representations through diplomatic channels.

"We will continue to pursue all unpaid congestion charge fees and related penalty charge notices, and are pushing for the matter to be taken up at the International Court of Justice."

US Embassy in Nine Elms
The US Embassy owes the largest amount in TfL fines at almost £14m [Bloomberg]

The Foreign Office said that they expects diplomats to pay the charge, adding that they believed that there was no legal grounds for diplomatic exemptions.

A spokesperson for the US Embassy in London said: "In accordance with international law as reflected in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, our position is that the congestion charge is a tax from which diplomatic missions are exempt.

"Our long-standing position is shared by many other diplomatic missions in London.”

In February 2020, then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab issued a written ministerial statement revealing that his officials had written to "a number of diplomatic missions and international organisations" to "press for payment" of money owed relating to the congestion charge, parking fines and business rates.

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