Congestion Charge

MQT on 2014-02-26
Session date: 
February 26, 2014
Question By: 
Andrew Boff
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Mr Mayor will you guarantee me that you will scrap the congestion charge when the new ultra low emissions zone is introduced?


Answer for Congestion Charge

Answer for Congestion Charge

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Yes, thank you very much, Andrew.  The answer I am afraid is I think going slightly to disappoint you, in the sense that I cannot guarantee to axe the congestion charge when the new ultra low emissions zone (ULEZ) is introduced, partly because this will happen in 2020 and, well, I do not know.  I might be around in 2020.  You never know.  I cannot guarantee that I will be here.  You asked me whether I can guarantee that I will scrap it.  I cannot guarantee you that I will be here.  I cannot guarantee that I will not but I cannot guarantee that I will.


Andrew Boff AM:  Mr Mayor, you could say however, much as you cannot guarantee that you are going to be here, that it could be part of the plans.  Otherwise you will be effectively taxing Londoners twice for driving on a piece of their own road.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is a very serious question.  You are right.  We will have to put the plans into effect and it will be something that we will have to elaborate on in the course of the next couple of years.  The answer is, no, we will not be getting rid of the congestion charge but we will be doing our best to see that people are not hit too hard or are not double taxed.  The actual modalities of how the whole thing is going to work are being thrashed out now.  You are going to see a lot more about how it will work within the next year or so.


Andrew Boff AM:  Thank you for using that term ‘double taxed’, Mr Mayor, because that is an admission of course that the congestion charge is a tax, which it always has been.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No, it is not.  It is a charge.


Andrew Boff AM:  You did not say ‘double charge’, Mr Mayor.  You said ‘double taxed’.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  For heaven’s sake.  Did I say ‘double tax’?


Andrew Boff AM:  I note that clarification.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It is a toll and it is extremely important, by the way.  We do not concede for one second that it is a tax.  It is not a tax.  It is a toll for the use of the road and it is the blooming diplomats - like the Americans and the Germans - who continue to insist under the Vienna Convention that it is a tax, but it is not a tax, is it?


Andrew Boff AM:  Mr Mayor, thank you.  Freudian slips reveal a lot, Mr Mayor.  I am overwhelmed by your enthusiasm for people to realise their tax liabilities or their charge liabilities.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes, it is not something that was universal amongst the Labour Party, actually.


Andrew Boff AM:  Could I therefore ask, Mr Mayor, that you write to the British diplomatic staff in Stockholm who refuse to pay their congestion charge on the basis that it is a tax?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You are joking.  You cannot be serious.  Is that true?


Andrew Boff AM:  I would suggest you write to them, Mr Mayor ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I certainly shall.


Andrew Boff AM:  ‑‑ and say let us be consistent.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Hang on, that is an amazing story.  Are you saying that UK diplomats in Stockholm refuse to pay the congestion charge?


Andrew Boff AM:  They do not pay the congestion charge in Stockholm because it is a tax.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  If I were the Mayor of Stockholm I would bang them up.


Andrew Boff AM:  To be fair, Mr Mayor, the people in Sweden believe it is a tax as well and they accept that it is a tax.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  What?


Andrew Boff AM:  The Swedish Government accepts that it is a tax.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Look, you cannot have it both ways.  Under the Vienna Convention diplomats should not pay a tax.  There is no question of that.  This is not a tax.  As you rightly say, Andrew, this is a toll or a charge for the use of road space.  It is perfectly blooming obvious.


Andrew Boff AM:  Yes.  Mr Mayor, it is a charge ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  By the way, there are many diplomatic communities in London, approximately 100 of them, who do pay the congestion charge, who are honourable citizens who make a contribution to the life of London and enable us to invest more in roads.


Andrew Boff AM:  Mr Mayor, it is ever so simple.  It is a charge if you get some benefit from it and then, until the day when I pay the congestion charge and they either clean my windscreen or provide me with a parking space, it is a tax.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You are getting the benefit of being able ‑‑


Andrew Boff AM:  It is a tax and it should be repealed.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I did not know that you drove a car, but you are getting ‑‑


Andrew Boff AM:  I do.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  If you drive a car in central London it is a priceless and wonderful thing to be able to do.  You are using road space which is massively contested between all sorts of other potential road users.  It is the most popular city on earth.  Everybody wants to come here.  It seems perfectly reasonable to me that the value of that road space should be reflected in a charge, which is what the congestion charge does.  It helps to alleviate congestion and has other benefits as well.


Andrew Boff AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  Without prolonging this, I would like you to go back on that last contribution you have had because you have just described a tax.  Thank you very much indeed.