Diplomats avoid £2m congestion charge

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Indy Politics

Foreign diplomats owe more than £2 million in fines after refusing to pay the London congestion charge.

The number of embassy non-payers has soared since July when Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, increased the charge for driving into the centre of capital from £5 to £8.

A number of embassies are refusing to comply with the charge and Transport for London (TfL) appear powerless to force them to pay up.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, told MPs yesterday that almost 33,000 fines for unpaid fines have been clocked by diplomats and embassy staff in London. The worst offender is the United Arab Emirates, whose embassy in south Kensington has accumulated 4,859 fines worth more than £450,000. Between them the worst ten offenders alone owe £1.9 million from 20,804 unpaid fines.

The US, supported by several European embassies including Germany and Switzerland, argues that the charge is a tax and diplomats are therefore exempt from payments under the 1961 Vienna convention on diplomatic relations.

It emerged that embassies have 4,135 unpaid fines worth £361,830 against them for parking and other minor traffic violations.