5 July 2011: Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to recover unpaid congestion charges and parking fines incurred by diplomatic missions.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, two-thirds of all foreign missions pay the London congestion charge, but as diplomatic missions are immune from prosecution in UK courts, 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. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Transport for London and other local authorities continue to press non-paying diplomatic missions to pay the clearly outstanding congestion charges and parking fines.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: I thank the Minister very much for that Answer-disappointing though it is, I am afraid. Does he agree that this is an absurd situation which cannot go on indefinitely? The total in unpaid congestion charge penalties rose from £36 million at the start of last year to £52 million by the end of April. Is not the answer perhaps for the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary to sit down quietly with the American ambassador-who owes £5 million of those fines to the people of London-and explain to him that this is not a tax: it is a legitimate charge for services rendered under Article 34 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations? If the American ambassador were to do it, I am sure that the others would follow.