Diplomatic Service: Debts

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 8th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Statement by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 18 December (HLWS1171), what steps they are taking to recover debts owed by diplomatic missions and international organisations in the UK; and what assessment they have made of the use of other deterrents, such as clamping or impounding diplomatic vehicles, to punish the offending organisations and missions.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, among other authorities, frequently presses diplomatic missions and international organisations to pay outstanding parking fines, National Non-Domestic Rates and Congestion Charge debt. The Director of Protocol raises the issue in his introductory meetings with new Heads of Mission whose missions are in debt to the relevant authorities. Protocol Directorate writes to such missions and international organisations giving them the opportunity to either pay their outstanding debts, or appeal against specific fines if they consider that they have been issued incorrectly. Two thirds of all diplomatic missions pay the London Congestion Charge, but as diplomatic missions and diplomats are immune from prosecution in UK courts without a waiver of immunity which can only be granted by the sending State, there is no legal course of action which Her Majesty's Government or local authorities can take to enforce payment of the Congestion Charge or parking fines.

Diplomatic vehicles cannot be clamped or otherwise impounded, enjoying immunity in international law.

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