'Mr and Mrs Expenses' face having house repossessed

Council claims house has been empty since last November
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Indy Politics

Alan and Ann Keen, the Labour MPs nicknamed "Mr and Mrs Expenses", face the repossession of the house they have designated as their main home with the Commons authorities because it appears to be unoccupied.

Although the couple's family home is only 10 miles and a 30-minute commute from Westminster, they claimed almost £39,000 between them from the taxpayer last year to run a flat in central London.

The threat of repossession will raise new question marks over the Keens' expenses claims because MPs are supposed to spend the majority of their time at the property they have told the authorities is their main home.

Yesterday, however, Hounslow Council said that the Keens' house in Brentford, west London, appeared to have been empty since last November. The building is understood to have fallen into disrepair, with windows boarded up and building materials filling the garden. The council said it had written to the couple asking them how they intended to bring the property back into use. It added: "As with all such cases, they now have one month to respond."

The council confirmed last night that it had the ultimate power to issue an empty dwelling management order, allowing it to repossess a property if it remained unoccupied and dilapidated. The house can then be used to accommodate other people.

Mrs Keen and her husband, the MP for neighbouring Feltham and Heston, bought their flat in Waterloo seven years ago and have each been claiming close to the maximum second-home allowance since then on the flat overlooking the Thames. The loophole that allows married MPs to both claim the maximum allowance for a property where they both live is being closed.

Their mortgage interest claims were reportedly against a loan of £520,000, although the property only cost £500,000 plus £20,000 for fixtures and fittings. Last year Mrs Keen claimed £18,338 in second-home allowance, including £13,636 for mortgage interest, while her husband claimed £19,855, including £13,831 for mortgage interest.

Their Waterloo apartment – now believed to be worth more than £600,000 – is in a complex with its own swimming pool, hot tub, gym and concierge service.

In a statement last night Mrs Keen said it was "categorically untrue" to claim the couple's Brentford home was empty. She said: "It is currently in the process of being substantially renovated. Our representatives are in the process of speaking to the London Borough of Hounslow with the details of our renovation work. As soon as this work is completed, we will be back living at home in Brentford, where we have lived for the past 22 years."

Grant Shapps, the shadow housing minister, said: "It is deeply ironic that the Labour Government's powers to allow the state confiscation of private property will be utilised against absentee Labour Members of Parliament."