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Diplomats have racked up more than £143 million in unpaid congestion charges to Transport for London (TfL), recent figures reveal.

Leading the list, the US Embassy owes nearly £14 million, followed by the Japanese Embassy with over £10.1 million. At the other end of the spectrum, Togo owes just £40.

These figures cover unpaid fees and fines accumulated by diplomats since the congestion charge was introduced in 2003 up to the end of last year. The congestion charge requires a £15 daily fee for driving within central London between 07:00 and 18:00 on weekdays, and between noon and 18:00 on weekends and bank holidays.

'Stubborn Minority'

While there are discounts and exemptions for certain groups and vehicles, such as residents, taxis, and fully electric cars, diplomats are not exempt. TfL clarified this position, stating: "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."

Most embassies in London comply with the charge, but a "stubborn minority" continue to refuse payment despite diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue. TfL emphasized its ongoing efforts to collect unpaid charges and suggested that the matter might be taken to the International Court of Justice.

Government Stance

The UK Foreign Office has reiterated its expectation that diplomats should pay the congestion charge, asserting that there are no legal grounds for diplomatic exemptions. The US Embassy in London, which relocated from Grosvenor Square to Nine Elms in January 2018, has been approached for comment.

In February 2020, then-Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab disclosed in a written ministerial statement that officials had contacted several diplomatic missions and international organizations to press for payment of outstanding congestion charges, parking fines, and business rates. Photo by Edwardx, Wikimedia commons.