One of the most influential newspapers in the United States, the New York Times, has backed calls that the United States Embassy in London should pay the central London congestion charge.
In a leading article today, the New York Times declares that ‘we don't buy the idea that diplomats are immune to the surcharge’ and agrees with the British government and the mayor that the congestion charge is not a tax, arguing ‘The British make a good case that the charge is not a tax, but a toll for the use of selected streets.’
The New York Times editorial also compares the situation to the argument made by Mayor Bloomberg of New York that UN diplomats should pay New York parking tickets. The New York Times points out that British diplomats regularly pay tolls on American roads and bridges.
The editorial reports that ‘at issue is the American embassy's refusal since last July to pay a traffic congestion surcharge when its diplomats drive around downtown London, where the embassy is situated. The Americans say the fee is a tax, and add that the Vienna Convention protects diplomats from taxes abroad.’
The NY Times adds: ‘we don't buy the idea that diplomats are immune to the surcharge.’
It goes on to say: ‘The British make a good case that the charge is not a tax, but a toll for the use of selected streets. Their diplomats, they note, regularly pay tolls on American roads and bridges.’
The New York Times editorial concludes: ‘Mr. Livingstone is certainly within his rights to demand payment, which may now amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, including fines,’ adding: ‘This is one war the United States government doesn't need to take on.’
Mayor Ken Livingstone said:
‘I welcome the constructive contribution of the New York Times on this issue. The congestion charge is not a tax but a charge for using some central London roads, and all revenue raised from the charge is put straight back into public transport to further ease congestion and keep the city free of gridlock.’
Notes to Editors
Notes to editors
1. The New York Times article can be downloaded at:
OPINION | March 31, 2006
Editorial: An American Revolt in London
2. Until July 2005 the US Embassy had been paying the congestion charge for all its staff and stopped doing so when new Ambassador. Robert Tuttle was posted to the US Embassy in London.
3. Since its introduction the Congestion Charge has seen congestion fall by between 30 and 33 per cent.