Mr and Mrs Expenses not keen to answer questions

Your Local Guardian: Wish you were here: Ann and Alan Keen Wish you were here: Ann and Alan Keen

Hounslow's MPs Ann and Alan Keen have gone to ground amid a media explosion over their extravagant expenses spending.

"Mr and Mrs Expenses" could well be re-dubbed the King and Queen of Claims following news that they insured each other's lives for £430,000 and claimed the premiums on expenses.

The couple, who between them represent both halves of the borough in Parliament, used more than £100,000 in public funds to pay for a flat with a swimming pool and a 24-hour concierge on London's South Bank.

The Keens funded the purchase of the £500,000 flat six years ago with a mortgage on the property, plus a loan on their family home in Brentford, which is only nine miles from Westminster.

The Sunday Times has revealed they then claimed back the interest payments for both mortgages courtesy of the public purse.

Additional Costs Allowances rules allow MPs to spend £23,083 a year to run and pay for a home near the House of Commons if they live outside inner London.

"I have no idea where they've gone - they haven't told anybody where they are."

Alan Keen MP's spokesman

The couple have not broken any rules, but their shared penchant for putting payments on expenses has drawn criticism.

Documents released earlier this year revealed that in 2002, before stricter rules were put in place, the Keens claimed the maximum amount they could every month - £1,643.50 each - without submitting one receipt.

At the time Mr Keen told this paper: "We voted for the Freedom of Information Act and would have been very happy for our information to go out."

However, following the final breakdown of 14 MPs' expenses being made public, the Keens have become unreachable.

A spokesman for Alan Keen's office said: "I have no idea where they've gone - they haven't told anybody where they are.

"I can access them by email, but that's all."

The couple did send back the following statement which they added must be "quoted in full".

"We are pleased that the full details of our Additional Costs Allowance claims have finally been released by the House of Commons authorities in response to a Daily Telegraph journalist's Freedom of Information request.

"We voted for the legislation in the House of Commons and would have preferred that the information was released much earlier.

"However, the House of Commons authorities disputed the level of detail that should be released and that was subsequently tested through the legal process.

"What has disappointed us is that the newspapers were not satisfied with printing the facts but, presumably in order to sell more copies, felt it necessary to embellish and twist the truth. We are considering the various ways of addressing that abuse."

Liberal Democrat parliamentary hopeful and Brentford councillor Andrew Dakers said the Keens "have been on the gravy train too long" putting them on "thin moral ice".

"It would have been far cheaper for them to have got taxis home to Brentford than to have had taxpayers help them buy a second home. Or perhaps they will sell up and give the money back to the Treasury when they stand down as MPs?"

He said that if elected to represent Brentford and Isleworth he would continue to go to work by train and not put his travel on expenses. He added: "Apart from anything else owning two homes adds to London's housing problems."

Conservative parliamentary candidate Mary Macleod said the Keens might not have broken any rules on expenses, and it therefore should be looked at as a "personal, moral decision".

She said: "I believe that expenses should only be charged if they are needed, not just because they are allowed.

"The constituency is within easy commuting distance of Westminster so I would not charge an additional property to the taxpayer."

She said expenses needed to be transparent and the public had a right to see the detail.

"In business, receipts are required for any amount being claimed and this should also apply to MPs."

What do you think about Ann and Alan Keens' expenses claims? Use the comment feature below or email cbriddon@london.newsquest.co.uk.

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