HC Deb 16 July 1980 vol 988 cc1480-1
9. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether it is the policy of his Department to claim diplomatic immunity on behalf of British diplomats who commit parking offences in other countries.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Richard Luce)

No, Sir. Our staff overseas are normally expected to pay any parking fines they may incur.

Mr. Mitchell

In that case, should not there be some reciprocity? Is the Minister aware that people, particularly in London, are getting fed up with reading about the blatant disregard of parking regulations by diplomats from a number of foreign embassies in London? What will he do about it?

Hon. Members

Tow them away.

Mr. Luce

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is fair to suggest that there should be reciprocity. Although diplomatic immunity is provided under the Vienna convention, at the same time it is laid down in article 41 that diplomats in other countries are expected to follow and obey the law of those countries. However, I should point out that parking offences by diplomats in this country have been reduced by 40 per cent. in the last two years, and that is a source of encouragement.

Mr. Jessel

Although the number of offences has been reduced by 40 per cent., is not the remaining number still substantial? Is not the real purpose of diplomatic immunity to ensure that ambassadors can carry out their duties without hindrance? Is it not intolerable that junior embassy officials can act with a total lack of consideration for and courtesy towards other road users, thereby causing congestion and inconvenience to thousands of them, while sheltering behind diplomatic immunity?

Mr. Luce

That is precisely why we make strong representations to heads of mission when there is strong evidence that particular diplomats have been abusing the laws and have been committing offences, particularly with regard to parking. That is something with which we shall persist.