Jon Ungoed-Thomas answers your questions about MPs' expenses!

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Jon Ungoed-Thomas is the chief reporter at the Sunday Times. He won scoop of the year at the British Press Awards in 2018 for his investigation with two colleagues, which led to the resignation of the de facto deputy prime minister Damian Green. Jon was a central figure in exposing the MPs expenses scandal, which you can read more about here.


Why did governments accept the misuse of expenses?
courageous_impression, Halsnead Primary School

It is a very good question. And the answer is they were part of the system.

MPs had grown so used to claiming expenses for meals, and drinks, and furniture, and bills for second homes, and gardening bills, that they failed to see anything was wrong with it.

They were all so enmeshed in this system - and benefiting from the vast splurge of cash - that they failed to ask the most obvious questions: is this system fair? What would the voters think about it if they knew what was going on? Is it legal?

It was a timebomb that at some point was going to explode. And no-one was bold enough to diffuse it. There was “group think”, in that all MPs thought they deserved the money from the expenses system and that it was properly run.

The Telegraph scoop was a rude awakening.


It was a timebomb that at some point was going to explode. And no-one was bold enough to diffuse it.

Jon Ungoed-Thomas


Did your discovery of the expenses scandal make you weary of all politicians?
Honorable_conclusion, Weston Favell Academy

We live in quite a cynical age, but I have huge respect for our MPs. Most of them work extremely hard and believe passionately in trying to improve life for their constituents and holding government to account.

The freedom of information laws introduced by Tony Blair’s government, which came into force on January 1 2005, meant that details of MPs’ expenses had to be published for the first time.

It was like a huge steamroller that had ran out of control. Some MPs were submitting outrageous claims, including £1,645 for a floating duck house.

The Sunday Times fought a legal battle in the High Court, along with a Sunday Telegraph journalist and the freelance journalist and campaigner Heather Brooke, for MPs' expenses to be released. While they were being compiled, they were leaked to the Daily Telegraph, which got a fantastic scoop.

It was a hard time for MPs, but they emerged with a fairer and more transparent system. Some of the MPs were convicted and received prison sentences.

MPs spend much of their time exposing and highlighting scandal, and it was a huge shock to be embroiled in one of their own making. They pride themselves on integrity and public service, so hopefully it was a lesson learned.

As institutions and individuals, we all make mistakes. I think most MPs firmly believe in decent and honourable public conduct, and act as our watchdogs, so I am not weary of them at all.


As institutions and individuals, we all make mistakes. I think most MPs firmly believe in decent and honourable public conduct, and act as our watchdogs, so I am not weary of them at all.

Jon Ungoed-Thomas


Can us children make an attempt to change how our politics works and why?
adaptable_beetle, Boutcher C of E Primary School B

We have all seen with Greta Thunberg the impact that one young person can have on politics. She has helped inform and influence the policies and debate on global warming.

Thousands of children last year took part in demonstrations around the world. I am not a big fan of missing school to take part in protests, but these actions can have an impact on our politics.

In our own lives, the decisions we make help contribute to the society we choose to live in.

Do I jump in a car for a short trip to school or is there a safe walking or cycling route?
Do I throw litter in the street or do I try and find a bin from where it can be recycled?
Do I try and limit the amount of plastics I use in my life?

The decisions we all take, that shape the lives of the people living in the streets and communities around us, can have enormous impact.

Too often, people blame “politics” for what is going wrong in their communities. There is no doubt central and local government has huge impact on our lives, from deciding on the type of schools in our communities to the amount of money for public services. But in our everyday lives, we can each affect the communities we live in which in turn helps shape the politics of our country.


What can we do to put integrity back into our politics so people can start to trust politicians?
Creative_sparrow, The Ruth Gorse Academy

One of the problems with our politics is that the MPs at Westminster can seem quite remote. And the coverage often involves them criticising each other, jockeying for power of advantage, or revelations about inappropriate or improper behaviour.

We should all work harder to understand that politicians are public servants who take daily decisions about the communities we live in. We should learn more about councils and our elected councillors - the local politicians - who work hard on our behalf.

A local councillor can work long hours with little thanks, raising concerns about unsafe road crossings, of the threat to the local library, or the need for more affordable homes. If we all thought more about the hard work of our local politicians, I think it would help restore trust in our political system.

Once we understand the local issues, we can then find out more about what our local MPs, and the government is doing to resolve the issues that affect us. We can then next think about what our politicians are doing to resolve the issues that affect everybody.

We can help restore trust in politics by working hard to ensure we have our own stake in the way our country is run.


A local councillor can work long hours with little thanks, raising concerns about unsafe road crossings, of the threat to the local library, or the need for more affordable homes. If we all thought more about the hard work of our local politicians, I think it would help restore trust in our political system.

Jon Ungoed-Thomas


The MPs' expenses scandal has really captured attention on the Hub. It happened before most of you were born, so what have you learnt from these answers, that you didn't know before?

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