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23.10.2008 Europe

MP denies moonlighting while on sick leave

By wigantoday.net

The MP for Croydon Central has denied moonlighting for a City investment firm while on sick leave from the House of Commons. Andrew Pelling is facing calls to pay back thousands of pounds to taxpayers after claims that he carried on working as a paid adviser of Tokai Tokyo while absent from the Commons due to depression.

But he insisted that he was on sick leave from the company during his six-month break from Westminster and gradually eased himself back into work at both jobs.

The Croydon Central MP stayed away from Westminster on the orders of his GP after being arrested for assault and kicked out of the Conservative Party.

But he continued to take his MP's wage of about £63,000 a year between January and July, despite attending the Commons only for crunch votes.

Mr Pelling told the Croydon Guardian that Tokai Tokyo acted as a "safe haven" to him during this period and played a "fundamental role" in restoring his health.

He said he felt "bad" about burdening Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway with his casework while off sick. He also expressed concern about tens of thousands of pounds in debt, and spoke of his battle with bulimia and sleeping pill abuse.

Mr Pelling, 49, who was elected as a Tory MP in 2005, was arrested over an alleged assault on his second wife Lucy in September last year. He was not subsequently charged, but the Conservative whip was withdrawn.

TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive Matthew Elliott said that if Mr Pelling worked while on sick leave from the Commons he should return his MP's pay: "It's simple - either you're too ill to work or you're not, no ifs, no buts. If any normal person ripped off their employer like this they would be sacked on the spot. It should be no different for MPs. He should pay back the money immediately with interest, and he shouldn't receive another penny from hard-working taxpayers."

But Mr Pelling said: "I was absent from both the House of Commons and Tokai Tokyo at the same time and made my way back to work, both voting in the Commons and working a very few hours a week at Tokai Tokyo."

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