The Foreign Office has been asked to take the decade-long legal dispute over the Congestion Charge to the International Court of Justice, Transport for London has confirmed.
A number of diplomatic missions in London – including the US, Germany and Japan – refuse to pay the charge because they view it as a revenue-raising tax, from which diplomats are exempted under the Vienna Conventions.
Transport for London, after taking legal advice from the FCO, claims the charge is legal because diplomats are paying for road usage, similar to a road toll.
Nick Fairholme, TfL’s director for congestion charging and traffic enforcement, said: “TfL 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 FCO previously hinted that an international approach may help solve the problem.
In an interview with Embassy, former FCO Head of Protocol Simon Martin said: “Other major cities are considering a congestion charge and are looking to the London example. When more cities do introduce it, the issue will probably be dealt with in a more international way.”
As the tenth anniversary of the Congestion Charge approaches in February, Transport for London told Embassy that diplomatic missions currently owe nearly £66 million in outstanding congestion charge penalties, with 66 missions more than £100,000 in debt.
However the amount of fines notched up annually has almost halved since Mayor Boris Johnson abolished the western extension of the charging zone. Missions were fined £12.7 million in 2009, but that figure dropped to £7.2 million in 2012.