Squatters ordered to quit MPs' house

Squatters living in a house owned by husband and wife Labour MPs, who are facing a formal sleaze probe over their expenses, were ordered to leave by a court today.

Alan and Ann Keen were not present when a "draconian" Interim Possession Order (IPO) was granted, meaning the squatters must vacate the property in Brentford, west London, within 24 hours or face criminal prosecution.

Judge Stuart Plaskow told Brentford County Court it was a "rare case" and acknowledged that the IPO was "a draconian order" but was the only one available to him.

He said the question of costs and damages would be reserved until a later date.

Around 10 squatters have been living in the property, in Mrs Keen's Brentford and Isleworth constituency, claiming it to be a protest against MPs' abuse of allowances. They have been holding comedy nights and have redecorated in a Christmas theme.

James Sutherland, from the Advisory Service for Squatters, told the court the Keen's claim had a procedural defect because it listed the squatters as "persons unknown" when they had already given their names to the police.

Mark Felix, one of the squatters, said that because the Keens had claimed parliamentary expenses out of taxpayers' money for the house, taxpayers could claim part ownership.

"Public taxpayers and the good people of Brentford who mistakenly voted in these people are part owners, so it should be given back to the people as a community centre or a refugee centre."

The Judge rejected Mr Felix's argument because Mr and Mrs Keen are the only people listed as owners in the Land Registry document.

Robert Latham, representing the Keens, told the court the couple have owned the house since 1988 and had vacated while major renovations were taking place.

Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, John Lyon, is to investigate after it emerged that the house, listed as the main home of Health Minister Mrs Keen and her MP husband had not been lived in for up to a year.

The Keens have been dubbed "Mr and Mrs Expenses" amid questions over why they need to run a flat in Westminster when their constituencies are within easy commuting distance. Mr Keen's Feltham and Heston seat neighbours his wife's.

The couple have claimed more than £130,000 between them for second home expenses.

The couple themselves have faced threats of repossession from Hounslow Council because the house has been vacant for so long.

The minister has insisted that the Brentford property has been their main home for 22 years.

"Like many others who have had alterations and builders in their homes, we too have experienced the nightmare side of it," she said in a statement.

"We had no choice but to halt work on our home because we became very concerned about the quality and standard."