By: Staff Writer
Colombo (LNW): The British Foreign Office announced that a large number of foreign embassies in London, including the Sri Lankan High Commission, owe the country millions of pounds in unpaid congestion charges.
Parliamentary Under-secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) David Rutley in a written reply to UK Parliament said that the overall amount of the debt now totals more than £145 million.
Accordingly, the Sri Lankan High Commission in London owes an amount of £652,120 as a total outstanding.
However, according to Under-secretary Rutley, there are no legal grounds to exempt diplomatic missions and international organisations from the London Congestion Charge, which is comparable to a parking fee or toll charge they are required to pay.
“Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomats have an obligation to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State.
The British Government therefore expects all diplomatic missions to respect UK laws and regulations, which includes payment of the Congestion Charge,” he stated.
Among the other countries are the US, Japan, Poland, France and Germany. The London congestion charge is a fee charged on most cars and motor vehicles being driven within the Congestion Charge Zone in Central London between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and between 12 noon and 6 p.m. on weekends.
Sri Lanka’s expenses on foreign missions has seen a natural increase over the years, with over 50% of those expenses being towards personal emoluments of staff serving in foreign missions.
These personal emoluments include salaries and wages, overtime and holiday payments, and other allowances for mission staff.
The value of unpaid Congestion Charge debt incurred by diplomatic missions and international organisations in London since its introduction in February 2003 until 31 December 2022 as advised by Transport for London (TfL) was £145.41 million.