New emissions charge illegal – expert

Diplomats should be exempt from Mayor Ken Livingstone’s new £25 emissions charge for gas-guzzling vehicles, a legal expert has told Embassy magazine.

Professor Eileen Denza, former legal counsel to the FCO, says the introduction of an emissions charge strengthens the argument that the congestion charge is, in fact, a tax from which diplomats should be exempt.

Professor Denza argues that the congestion charge is not a charge for ‘specific services rendered’ under Article 34 of the Vienna Conventions.

“My reasons for regarding the congestion charge as in substance a tax are strengthened ‘by the recent’ statement of intention to link the charge more overtly to emissions,” she said, adding: “I believe those who are not currently paying are correct in law.”

Professor Denza outlines her arguments at length in the latest edition of her book Diplomatic Law: Commentary on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (published by Oxford University Press in March 2008).

Under the new scheme, to be introduced this October, cars producing more than 225g/km of CO2 or with engines above 3,000cc will pay £25 a day; those emitting under 121g/km will pay nothing; and all others will continue to pay £8.

The big-engine flag cars of many diplomatic missions, as well as embassy vans, 4x4s and people carriers used by diplomatic families could fall within Band G, which carries a charge of £25.

The car manufacturer Porsche says the charge is unfair and has threatened the Mayor with a judicial review, but so far other car makers have not joined them.

Matthew Boyles, head of diplomatic sales at BMW Park Lane, said he did not know of any plans for BMW to mount a legal challenge, adding that their new BMW X5 is currently under the emissions limit. “And for diplomats who really want to burnish their green credentials, the Mini Cooper D is congestion charge free because of its low emissions,” he added.

To find out whether your vehicle carries a £25 charge, visit:

To join Porsche’s petition, visit: