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Diplomats (Illegal Parking)

Volume 82: debated on Wednesday 10 July 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish in the Official Report a copy of the letter of 19 April from the vice marshal of the Diplomatic Corps to all heads of mission in the United Kingdom about illegal parking in London.

The text of the letter and of its second enclosure are as follows:19 April 1985

Illegal Parking

I must once again draw your attention to the problem of the parking of diplomatic vehicles in London. The number of unpaid fixed penalty notices for parking offences by diplomatic vehicles is now running at the enormous figure of over 100,000 a year. This is double the figure of only 5 years ago and represents a much higher proportion of the total number of such offences.

I enclose a copy of a Parliamentary Answer given on 13 February by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, which gives details of the total number of fixed parking penalty notices cancelled on grounds of diplomatic immunity for the three-year period 1981–1983 (which is the latest period for which complete figures were then available) broken down by country and organisation. The 1984 figures, which are still subject to late payments and cancellations, are also enclosed. These figures include both official and private vehicles. The successful efforts made by certain Missions to keep their figures down are appreciated. The very high figures for certain other Missions have also been noted.

This is a matter of growing public concern. Illegally parked vehicles not only cause inconvenience to residents in the areas affected but also contribute to traffic congestion, disrupt access, cause delays in public transport, hinder emergency services and generally prevent others from conducting their lawful official and private business. Moreover they bring discredit on the diplomatic community as a whole.

In my circular of 1 June 1983 I noted that "several Heads of Mission have told me that their staff (like those of UK Missions abroad) are under instructions to pay their parking penalties except where they have been unavoidably incurred on essential official duty—not simply on daily travel to and from work". It is clear however from the statistics either that many Missions do not have such instructions or alternatively that compliance with them is far from being fully effective.

As you will be aware, diplomats are obliged under Article 41 of the Vienna Convention to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state. Deliberate and persistent disregard of this obligation cannot be ignored or regarded as acceptable behaviour by those concerned. In his letter of 15 August 1984 the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office drew attention to the Secretary of State's statement to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons on 18 July that we would henceforth expect and apply more stringent standards.

The Government of course recognise that certain individual Missions, because of their geographical location, face particular difficulties. In this connection I should like to remind you that the Local Authorities have agreed to allocate up to three marked parking bays ("St. Andrew's Crosses") to each diplomatic Mission plus one for each Head of Mission, subject to local traffic conditions.

In my letter of 12 December 1983 I informed you that cars, bearing diplomatic registration plates would be exempted from wheel-clamping. This remains the position but the exemption of the diplomatic corps has, as you will be aware, continued to arouse criticism from the press and Londoners generally. This is all the more reason for impressing upon your staff the importance of scrupulous adherence to parking regulations. In cases where diplomatic vehicles cause obstruction or danger, they will continue to be towed away. We expect the towing charge to be paid on the basis that it is a legal obligation in respect of a service performed.

As from 1 May 1985 detailed records will be kept of unpaid parking tickets by all cars with diplomatic registration plates. Persistent and deliberate failure by individual diplomats in their private cars to respect parking regulations and to pay fixed penalty notices will henceforth call into question their continued acceptability as members of diplomatic Missions in London. Where necessary particular cases will be drawn to our personal attention with a warning about the possible consequences. Due account will be taken if the parking tickets are subsequently paid or appropriate contributions made to the Central Ticket Office. Further unpaid parking tickets incurred by individuals will lead to a request for the withdrawal of the offender. An alternative in certain cases could be to grant a waiver of immunity so that the person concerned can be prosecuted.

Note will also be made of the total number of fixed penalty notices incurred by individual official cars of diplomatic Missions and left unpaid. In particular cases these will be drawn to your personal attention with a request, in the first instance, for appropriate action. If this has no effect, we shall be obliged to take further measures. This could include exercising the right under Article 9 of the Vienna Convention to declare a chauffeur unacceptable.

I trust that I will be able to count on your full cooperation and that it will not be necessary for me to draw individual cases to your attention. I must however leave you in no doubt about the strength of public feeling on this question and of the Government's determination to reduce very substantially the present level of illegal parking by individual vehicles.

Signed E H B Gibbs

Vice Marshall of the Diplomatic Corps

Fixed penalty notices cancelled on grounds of diplomatic immunity (metropolitan police district)

Organisation/country

1984

Afghanistan11
Algeria932
Antigua and Barbuda17
Argentine Republic0
Australia2

Organisation/country

1984

Austria51
Bahamas21
Bahrain644
Bangladesh404
Barbados319
Belgium154
Bolivia71
Botswana62
Brazil4,927
Brunei86
Bulgaria2,823
Burma407
Cameroon1,293
Canada132
Chile610
China1,132
Colombia553
Costa Rica471
Cuba2,147
Cyprus2,698
Czechoslovakia316
Dahomey0
Denmark1
Dominica, Commonwealth of22
Dominican Republic45
Eastern Caribbean St28
Ecuador304
Egypt6,885
E1 Salvador9
Ethiopia530
Fiji93
Finland580
France2,375
Gabon345
Gambia362
German Democratic Republic198
Germany, Federal Republic of226
Ghana2,223
Greece1,321
Grenada5
Guyana193
Haiti0
Honduras142
Hungary1,456
Iceland154
India512
Indonesia2,232
Iran894
Iraq2,783
Ireland, Republic of755
Israel282
Italy2,981
Ivory Coast911
Jamaica1,446
Japan2,378
Jordan2,595
Kenya1,739
Khmer Republic0
Korea218
Kuwait996
Laos0
Lebanon73
Lesotho69
Liberia177
Libya764
Luxembourg2

Organisation/country

1984

Malagasy Republic0
Malawi119
Malaysia2,440
Malta, Republic of564
Mauritius176
Mexico467
Monaco2
Mongolia12
Morocco1,248
Nepal67
Netherlands33
New Zealand1
Nicaragua27
Nigeria, Federal Republic of5,920
Norway91
Oman1,155
Pakistan2,249
Panama329
Papua New Guinea18
Paraguay270
Peru690
Philippines466
Poland2,463
Portugal969
Qatar1,727
Romania484
Rwanda0
Saudi Arabia4,956
Senegal555
Seychelles17
Sierra Leone437
Singapore87
Somali Democratic Republic325
South Africa, Republic of25
Soviet Union1,555
Spain1,513
Sri Lanka588
Sudan2,635
Swaziland21
Sweden196
Switzerland50
Syria Arab Republic980
Tanzania1,033
Thailand1,637
Togo99
Tonga10
Trinidad and Tobago164
Tunisia355
Turkey1,263
Uganda1,906
United Arab Emirates1,693
United States of America223
Uruguay438
Venezuela793
Vietnam7
Yemen Arab Republic226
Yemen, Peoples Democratic Republic370
Yugoslavia1,061
Zaire257
Zambia953
Zimbabwe666
Commonwealth Secretariat212
EEC Commission7

Organisation/country

1984

International Cocoa Organisation1
International Coffee Organisation1
International Sugar Organisation0
Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation31
International Maritime Satellite Organisation31
Western European Union3
International Wheat Council2
United Nations6
Apostolic Delegation0
TOTAL108,932