Page last updated at 18:12 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 19:12 UK

Council warns MP couple over home

Ann and Alan Keen
The Keens face fresh questions over their expenses

Married Labour MPs Ann and Alan Keen have been given a month to stop their local council repossessing their home 10 miles from the House of Commons.

The pair's expenses have been in the spotlight after they claimed £137,679 for a second home near Parliament.

Hounslow Council has told the couple "urgent action" is needed to explain why their main home in Brentford is unoccupied.

The couple say it is not true to say it is empty, but it is being renovated.

A source at the council - which is run by the Conservatives - told the BBC that the Brentford property had remained empty for seven months.

Andrew Dakers, the Liberal Democrat councillor for the area, who is also its prospective Parliamentary candidate, has told the BBC that the windows at the back of the Keens' main home were boarded up and that there was paint splashed on the inside of the upstairs windows.

'Deeply ironic'

The Keens are not thought to have responded to the council's letter, sent last week. If the council does not get a satisfactory response from the Keens, it then has the power to issue an Empty Dwelling Management Order which would allow the council to take possession of the property and bring it back into use.

Such orders became law five years ago in order to give local councils the power to take possession of empty properties and bring them back into use.

FURTHER QUESTIONS?
BBC correspondent Gary O'Donoghue
Gary O'Donoghue Ann Keen, a junior health minister, also appears to have claimed for private medical treatment. In 2005 the former nurse claimed for two medical bills, amounting to £232 for treatment at the Blackheath Hospital. At the time she was a Parliamentary aide to Gordon Brown.
Most of the detail relating to these bills has been blacked out in the allowances published by Parliament last week, although the first bill for £150 is entitled "new consultation" in the published documents.
It is not clear whether Mrs Keen or a member of her staff was the subject of the consultation, though the rules on Incidental Expenses, which are meant to cover the cost of running an office, make it clear that they are not there for personal costs.

But in a statement on Tuesday evening Mrs Keen said: "It is categorically untrue to say that our home is an empty dwelling as made clear by the relevant legislation.

"It is currently in the process of being substantially renovated, entirely at our own expense."

She denied the property was subject to an empty dwelling management order and said the letter made clear that "owners undertaking renovation work on their homes are not under threat of repossession".

"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."

Tory housing spokesman Grant Shapps said it would be "deeply ironic" if the Labour government's powers to allow the state confiscation of private property were used against "absentee Labour members of Parliament".

The couple's designated second home is a flat in Waterloo, two stops on the Jubilee underground line from Westminster.

Alan Keen is MP for Feltham and Heston while Ann Keen is MP for neighbouring Brentford and Isleworth.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the couple bought the central London flat in 2002 and have, between them, claimed more than £30,000 towards it in each of the past four years.

The couple told the newspaper that under the second home allowance rules, married MPs were entitled to separately claim for a property that they share and live in together.



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