Mr and Mrs expenses: MP couple get £175,000 for a flat ... and their house is just 30 minutes away
A husband and wife who are both MPs have used £175,000 of taxpayers’ money to help buy a flat near Parliament – while they already have a constituency home nine miles away.
Health minister Ann Keen, 59, and her husband Alan, 70 - who have been nicknamed Mr and Mrs Expenses - bought an apartment on the South Bank of the Thames using their generous second homes perk.
They also took out life insurance policies worth £430,000 and claimed back the £867.57 a month premiums on their expenses.
Health Minister Ann Keen and her husband Alan have claimed for two mortgages on expenses and life insurance premiums
The couple bought the flat, in a block with its own swimming pool and gym, under rules that allow MPs to spend £23,083 a year to run and furnish a home near the Commons.
They qualified for the handout because they live outside inner London. Yet the Keens’ home is actually in Brentford, West London - about 30 minutes away by car.
The details were revealed in documents after a three-year freedom of information battle in which Commons
Speaker Michael Martin lost his bid to keep a breakdown of MPs’ expenses secret.
Ten days ago the High Court ruled he must publish details of claims made under the additional costs allowance by 14 current or former MPs.
Speaker Michael Martin spent £200,000 on a legal battle to keep MPs expenses secret
Mrs Keen, who represents Brentford and Isleworth, and Mr Keen, who is Labour MP for neighbouring Feltham and Heston, already effectively receive double the expenses of other MPs because they share a property.
But the manner in which they bought another home near the Royal Festival Hall will raise eyebrows yet again about the Commons expenses regime.
The couple bought the flat in May 2002 after spending six months in a London hotel.
In a letter to the Commons’ Fees Office informing officials of their changed circumstances, the Keens wrote: ‘Despite some advantages of hotel accommodation, overall we found it unsatisfactory and have borrowed…to purchase a flat within walking distance of Westminster.’
In an unusual arrangement, they used two mortgages. One loan was for £350,000 from HSBC. The other £170,000 was raised by re-mortgaging their property in Brentford, also through HSBC.
The couple argued that because the second home loan was used to raise equity for the central London flat it should be permissible on expenses.
This was apparently nodded through by officials. The property would almost certainly now be worth at £800,000, according to experts.
As well as the interest payments on their mortgage, the couple claimed £867.57 a month for ‘compulsory’ life insurance premiums attached to the home loans - a practice which has since been banned.
According to the documents, they never submitted a single receipt. Instead, they
sent two sheets of A4 to the expenses department every month, claiming £1,643.50 each month throughout 2002-03 and £1,699 each throughout 2003-04 - almost the maximum payable.
Home help: Ann and Alan Keen used their allowances to help buy a flat in Waterloo
In the five years since they bought the apartment, Mrs Keen has claimed £87,325 under the second homes allowance and Mr Keen has received £87,803 - a total of £175,128.
In the last year for which figures are available, the pair claimed a total of £38,515 under the ACA, which covers mortgage interest, service charges, utility and food.
If they had each separately taken the £38 taxi ride from Westminster to Brentford on every Commons ‘sitting day’ that year, the bill would have only come to £11,000 - £27,000 less.
Alan and Anne Kean's house in Brentford
There is no suggestion the couple broke the rules. However, their case will intensify pressure for reforms of the way MPs pay themselves expenses.
Critics claim they lived so near to the Commons they should only be able to claim the London supplement of £2,700.
The housing allowances system is now under review.
A Department of Health spokesman stressed the Keens’ claims were within the rules.
But Matthew Elliott, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance campaign group, said they were ‘unacceptable’.
‘The allowance should help MPs represent their constituencies, not pay the costs of life insurance or enable them to build up a lucrative property portfolio.’
The ACA documents also revealed taxpayers picked up the bill for Tony Blair’s interest-only £297,000 mortgage on his constituency home - amounting to almost £4,000 in 2005-06.
- Road revolt part 1: MPs demand Brown U-turns over 'green' tax on millions of family car drivers
- Road revolt part 2: Lorry drivers to shut down London roads in capital's largest-ever fuel protest
- Man charged with killing Harry Potter actor went to same school as victim
- Boys aged 12 and 13 arrested after 17-year-old is battered to death in 'gang attack'
- Bank Holiday washout as almost a month's worth of rain falls in ONE DAY
- Girl, 13, killed by falling tree as Britain is battered by heavy rain
- Health and safety zealots tell youngster her 2ft paddling pool needs a LIFEGUARD
- Fire service that held 'non-white' open days hires just ONE ethnic minority recruit
- Taxi driver arrested as young mother dies falling out of moving cab after row over fare
- The diet pill that makes you feel full as soon as you start eating
- MPs 'to hide expense claims' with £23,000 second-home grant
- Woman with brain disorder arrested and locked up because police thought she was drunk
- The crew of HMS Lusty let their hair down...the day after a visit from the Queen
- The British bulldog growls and the French lift their blockade on boats in Cherbourg siege
- Hundreds of British holidaymakers stranded for second night at Egypt airport after plane breaks down
- BBC plans to send more than 100 staff, including 'wally in a brolly' Steve McClaren, to Euro 2008
- Olympic hopeful, 12, dies after falling from horse at cross country event
- Nail bombs found at Exeter restaurant made from Middle Eastern brand of fizzy orange drink
- Guilty: The illegal immigrant who murdered student with a cricket bat just weeks after being released by police
- Fishier and fishier...doubts grow over shark couple's 'ordeal'
- Aid workers 'abusing children as young as six in Third World countries'
- Every adult in Britain should be forced to carry 'carbon ration cards', say MPs
- How Britain is about to be invaded by tiger mosquito carrying 20 diseases
- Babies exposed to passive smoking are at risk of catching meningitis and scepticaemia
- Fritzl cellar daughter, 19, wakes up from coma
- Pupils can take an A-level in being a teenager under new exam board plans
- Freed convicts must be made to look for work, say Tories
- MORE HEADLINES
- Brangelina splash out £35m on French chateau complete with vineyard and ponies for their expanding brood
- So why HAS Jodie Foster left her lesbian lover of 15 years?
- Frank Lampard drowns his sorrows with a mystery blonde
- Don't you dare, David! Posh keeps a close eye on Becks as he tries not to ogle basketball cheerleaders again
- Bikini-clad Mel B swills champagne and chain-smokes on romantic holiday in Miami
- Pictured: Amy lashes out at photographers after missing prison visit with Blake
- My chateau of broken dreams - How my escape to the sun destroyed my marriage and drove me to drink
- Worse for wear Naomi Campbell parties at close of Cannes...and reveals her bald patch
- Lindsay Lohan's lesbian kiss with Mark Ronson's sister in Cannes
- Chip off the old block: Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin's daughter Ireland looks just like her mother
- Leotards and fishnets: Girls Aloud don day-glo lycra for raunchy onstage look
- I'm choosing my four-year-old daughter's 16th, 18th AND 21st birthday card because I'm dying of cancer
- Look away, Owen... Kate Hudson goes public with new love Lance Armstrong
- I'd Do Anything to be Madonna: The Nancies as you've never seen them before
- Patrick Swayze smiles through cancer at a basketball game with his wife
- Health and safety zealots tell youngster her 2ft paddling pool needs a lifeguard
- Kylie at 40: The very different faces of pop's great chameleon
- Pictured: The amazing portraits of Elvis and Madonna made entirely from bar codes
- Fancy seeing you here: Jack Tweed follows ex-girlfriend Jade Goody to Marbella on 'lads holiday'
- Secret's out: Leona Lewis flashes her 'engagement' ring
- MOST READ IN DETAIL