London mayor slaps congestion fee on Obama’s limo

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, May 27, 2011 8:21 EDT
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LONDON — London Mayor Boris Johnson will ask Barack Obama to pay the congestion charge for his security vehicle “The Beast”, according to the Evening Standard newspaper.

The Mayor told the Standard each car in the US President’s motorcade will be billed for £10 ($16), including the heavily-armoured Cadillac, which is designed to withstand all manner of attacks.

Johnson also said he had a discussion with Obama about the US embassy’s refusal to pay £5.3 million ($8.7 million) in C-charge fines.

“Our roads were not closed during the President’s visit so his motorcade will pay. The Beast will pay the charge, I’m delighted to say,” Johnson told the daily.

“We didn’t charge the Pope when he was here because all the roads were closed, so the Popemobile was exempt. But this was different.”

Johnson said he also raised the issue of the US embassy’s unpaid C-charge bill with the president during a state banquet at Buckingham Palace. “We had a very friendly conversation. Suffice to say discussions will be ongoing, ” the Mayor was quoted as saying.

A spokesman for Johnson’s office told AFP: “They already owe £5.3 million so it is probable the bill for the motorcade will just go on top of that.”

Transport for London has ways of spotting vehicles entering the city which are not registered for the charge and will be able to identify “The Beast” and the other vehicles in the motorcade, a TfL spokesman said.

The US embassy and the delegations for several other countries allege the charge is a tax and they are therefore immune from it. TfL says foreign diplomatic missions in London currently owe a total of £51 million ($83 million).

A US Embassy spokeswoman said the embassy will refuse to pay a fee for “The Beast” or the rest of the motorcade, if a bill is received.

“Our position on the congestion charge, is based on the 1960 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which prohibits the imposition of this sort of tax on diplomatic missions,” she said.

“It is a position shared by many other diplomatic missions in London.”

“The U.S. Embassy in London conscientiously abides by all UK laws, including paying fines for all traffic violations, such as parking and speeding violations,” she said.

Johnson made his comments during Thursday’s launch of the first London-wide network of electric car-charging points in Kingston, the Standard reported.

The TfL spokesman said: “The presidential motorcade is subject to the congestion charge. Any vehicle, regardless of where it is registered, which is identified within the congestion charging zone during the hours of operation without a valid charge, discount or exemption may be subject to a penalty.

?Transport for London and the Mayor will continue to pursue all unpaid congestion charge fees and related penalty charge notices.?

He could not immediately say what the total bill would be for the motorcade.

One of the special vehicles that Obama brought on his European trip literally got into a scrape when it became stuck on a ramp in Dublin on Monday. The vehicle, identical to The Beast, became grounded as it left a car park.

“There was a loud kind of bang, metal-on-metal, grinding, crunching noise and the car was stuck,” a correspondent for Irish state radio station RTE reported.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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