Married MPs Ann and Alan Keen ordered to repay £1,500 expenses

Married Labour MPs Ann and Alan Keen were ordered today to repay £1,500 in expenses claimed for running a second home where they were actually living full-time.

The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee found the couple had been wrong to keep claiming parliamentary allowances even though they had only one habitable home.



But it said the rule breach was "significantly mitigated" because the arrangement was authorised by Commons officials, and they had not been trying to profit.



The committee said: "We conclude that Mr and Mrs Keen were in breach of the rules of the House because for a period of four months they claimed allowances for a second home when they only had one home available to them.



"This breach is significantly mitigated in our view by the approval given by the Department of Resources, by the lack of any evidence that Mr and Mrs Keen intended to procure for themselves a personal benefit, and by very difficult circumstances beyond their control."









Standards Commissioner John Lyon made clear that he regarded the breach of the rules as "serious", and involving "significant public funds". He suggested that Mr and Mrs Keen should pay back four months worth of their claims - some £5,678.

However, the committee of MPs took the unusual step of disagreeing with his findings and slashing the repayment, insisting that "in the exceptional circumstances of this case we take a more lenient view".



Renovations at the couple's home in Mrs Keen's constituency of Brentford and Isleworth, a short commute from parliament, started in May 2008.



However, following disputes with builders, the work stalled and the house was boarded up in December.



The MPs lived full-time in their Westminster property for the next 11 months, but continued to designate it as their second home and claim expenses.



The situation became public last June, when it emerged that the local council were threatening to repossess the property because it was derelict.



Within days the house was occupied by squatters protesting against the way the pair were getting taxpayers' money.



According to the report, Mr and Mrs Keen did ask the Commons Department of Resources for advice on the arrangement in May last year, and were told that the "exceptional circumstances" meant they were still entitled to allowances.



But Mr Lyon insisted 11 months was "too long" for them to have reasonably kept claiming.



"While this is a matter of judgment, my judgment is that by June 2009 they had been out of their Brentford home for too long for it to have continued to be considered their main home for allowance purposes.



"They had by then been out of the property for seven months and the work had yet to re-start.



"The arrival of the squatters was another serious setback, but by then the reasonable leeway had in my view run out."



He went on: "My conclusion is that Mr and Mrs Keen were in breach of the rules of the House in continuing to make claims on parliamentary expenditure for their central London flat when their home in Brentford was uninhabitable from June 2009 to October 2009.



"This was because, in my judgment, the rules require that a Member's home must be somewhere where they can stay overnight and that, having allowed a reasonable period for adjusting to the building problem that hit them late in 2008, Mr and Mrs Keen continued to be unable to stay overnight in their Brentford property during that period."









The commissioner said the couple had received a "personal financial benefit" from the accommodation arrangements between December 2008 and October 2009, and concluded that "some of the costs arising from their building problems were unnecessarily carried on parliamentary funds".

But the committee said the couple had endured a "catalogue of misfortune" and it would not be "fair to recommend repayment in full". Instead, it said the MPs should hand back £1,500 between them by the end of this parliament.



"While we would normally agree with the Commissioner on the seriousness of a misjudgment of this kind, in the exceptional circumstances of this case we take a more lenient view," the report said.



"Although, as the guidance makes very clear, Members are responsible for their own decisions, the express approval given on two occasions by the Department of Resources to Mr and Mrs Keen's continued claims for second home allowances when their main home was out of use is a very significant mitigating factor."



Campaign group the TaxPayers' Alliance pointed out that Feltham and Heston MP Mr Keen and his wife had not been asked to apologise, and called for the case to be referred to the police.



Spokesman Matthew Elliott said: "This is an appallingly light penalty for a serious and costly breach of the rules.



"Given the damning verdict on the Keens by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, the committee should have levied a far larger fine and demanded a full apology.



"This should not be the end of the matter, and the case should now be referred to the police for proper legal scrutiny."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick