1991 in the United Kingdom

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Events from the year 1991 in the United Kingdom.




  • January – Tax-exempt special savings accounts (TESSAs) introduced as a government concession to promote personal savings.
  • 3 January – The UK expels all Iraqi diplomats from the country due to the Iraqi government's illegal annexation of Kuwait five months earlier.[1]
  • 5 January – 27 people die as a result of gale-force winds across Britain.[2]
  • 8 January – A train crash at Cannon Street station in London kills one person and injures over 500.[3]
  • 11 January – As the recession deepens, 335 employees at the Peugeot car factory in Coventry are made redundant, while Ford is looking for up to 1,000 voluntary redundancies at its British factories. Thousands of jobs in the financial services factor are reportedly at threat, as the total UK unemployment figure is currently standing at nearly 1,800,000, but is expected to rise to well over 2,000,000 by the end of the year.
  • 14 January – Donald Coleman, Labour MP for Neath in South Wales, dies aged 65.
  • 16 January – The final phase of the M40 motorway through Oxfordshire is opened, giving the West Midlands conurbation its first direct motorway link with London.[4]
  • 17 January – The Gulf War begins, as the Royal Air Force joins Allied aircraft in bombing raids on Iraq.[5]
  • 18 January – In spite of the deepening recession, the Conservatives have climbed back to the top of the opinion polls, a MORI poll placing them five points ahead of Labour on 46%.[6]
  • 19 January – It is announced that 1,844,000 people are now unemployed in the United Kingdom, and experts warn that the figure will exceed 2,000,000 people before the end of the year.
  • 29 January – John Major resists calls from the Labour Party for interest rates to be cut, in a bid to combat the recession.



  • 3 March – An Ipsos MORI poll shows that John Major is more popular with his voters than his Conservative government.
  • 8 March – Ribble Valley, the tenth safest Conservative constituency in Britain, is won by the Liberal Democrats in a by-election.
  • 10 March – The UK reportedly has the fastest pace in rising unemployment of all the European Community countries.
  • 14 March – The Birmingham Six are freed after the Court of Appeal quashes their convictions over the 1974 pub bombings in Birmingham which killed 21 people and injured more than 160 others.[10]
  • 15 March – Unemployment is now above 2,000,000 for the first time in two years. The number of British workers employed in the manufacturing industry has fallen below 5,000,000 for the first time since records began.
  • 19 March – Norman Lamont predicts 2% economic contraction for this year.
  • 21 March – Education Secretary Kenneth Clarke announces plans to remove further education and sixth form colleges from local authority control.
  • 23 March
  • 28 March – An inquest in Sheffield into the Hillsborough disaster records a verdict of accidental death on the 95 people who died as a result of the tragedy in 1989. Many of the victims' families criticise the verdict in open court, as many of them had been hoping for a verdict of unlawful killing, or an open verdict, and for criminal charges to be brought against the police officers who patrolled the game.[12]
  • 29 March – Sir John Stradling Thomas, Conservative MP for Monmouth, dies aged 65.


  • 4 April
    • Social services in the Orkney Islands are criticised for their handling of more than 100 children who have returned to their families after being taken away over allegations of child abuse.[13]
    • Labour retains the Neath constituency at a by-election with the LabourParty candidate Peter Hain, receiving more than half of the vote.
  • 8 April – The Football Association announces plans for a new "super league" of eighteen clubs to replace the Football League First Division as the highest division of English football. The move is attacked by smaller Football League clubs, who fear that they could go out of business if TV revenue was confined to the proposed super league.
  • 18 April – Despite the continuing recession, the Conservatives are still top of the opinion polls as the latest MORI poll puts them two points ahead of Labour on 42%. The Liberal Democrats have trebled their showing in the last fifteen months, now gaining 15% of the vote.[6]
  • 19 April – George Carey enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury.[9]
  • 23 April – The government confirms that the unpopular Community Charge is to be replaced by a new Council Tax in 1993.[9]


  • 5 May – Hopes for a quick end to the recession are boosted by CBI predictions that a sharp recovery in business profits will begin shortly.
  • 15 May – Manchester United win the European Cup Winners' Cup with a 2–1 win over FC Barcelona of Spain in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Mark Hughes scores both of their goals to give English clubs a winning return to European competitions after their five-year ban was lifted last year.[14]
  • 16 May – Unemployment is now at 2,175,000 – the highest figure since late-1988. It is also above the European average for the first time since 1987.
  • 17 May – The Conservatives are defeated at another by-election, when Labour gain the Monmouth seat in Wales.
  • 18 May –
  • 21 May – South Wales, one of the regions hit the hardest by unemployment, receives a boost when the go-ahead is given for Japanese electrical company Sony to build a new factory in Bridgend that will create 1,400 jobs when it opens in 1993.
  • 22 May – Nearly six months after the breakthrough in the Channel Tunnel service tunnel, the breakthrough in the North rail tunnel is achieved. On the same day, road links to the British terminal are improved when the final section of the M20 motorway is opened between Maidstone and Ashford, meaning that the Chunnel's unbroken motorway link with London has already been completed an estimated three years before the first trains move between Britain and France.[16][17]
  • 24 May
    • Labour tops a MORI poll for the first time this year, as they stand six points ahead of the Conservatives on 43%.[6]
    • Sutton Manor Colliery at Bold in the Lancashire Coalfield closes,[18] the last in Britain to use a steam winding engine.
  • 27 May – Eric Heffer, Labour MP for Liverpool Walton, dies after an eighteen-month battle with cancer.
  • 29 May – Economists warn that the economy is still in an "exceptionally steep" recession and that it could be another year before the first real signs of recovery become visible.


  • June – Kia, the Korean carmaker, begin importing cars to the United Kingdom for the first time; initially it will only import the Pride (a rebadged version of the Japanese Mazda 121), but at least one further model is expected to join it by 1994.[19]
  • 3 June – The British Army kill three IRA gunmen in Northern Ireland.[20]
  • 6 June – Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock condemns John Major for high interest rates, as much as 17%, being charged on small businesses by banks.
  • 10 June – The National Gallery (London) opens its new Sainsbury Wing to the public.[9]
  • 13 June – Unemployment is reported to have risen to 2,250,000, the lowest monthly rise reported this year.
  • 14 June – Julie Ann Gibson becomes the first woman to qualify as a pilot with the Royal Air Force.[21]
  • 19 June – Secretary of State for Employment Michael Howard announces a £230,000,000 plan to tackle rising unemployment.
  • 25 June – Nissan, the Japanese carmaker with a plant at Sunderland, starts "price wars" by reducing the cost of its cars in order to boost flagging sales brought on by the recession.
  • 28 June
    • Seven months after her resignation as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher announces that she will stand down as a Member of Parliament at the next general election, which has to be held within the next twelve months.[22]
    • The final breakthrough in the Channel Tunnel is achieved when the last section of clay in the South rail tunnel is bored away.[17]


  • July
    • South African-produced cars are imported to Britain for the first time, with the launch of the Sao Penza, a rebadged version of the Mazda 323.[23]
    • Production of the Vauxhall Belmont compact saloon ends and a newer Astra range of hatchbacks and estates, begins with saloon and convertible models arriving later.
  • 3 July – Michael Shorey is convicted at the Old Bailey of the July 1990 murders of Elaine Forsyth and Patricia Morrison, two estate agents with whom he shared a basement flat in north London. He is sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment. The former EastEnders actress Sandy Ratcliff, who provided Shorey with an alibi on the night of the murders, is subsequently convicted of perjury.[24]
  • 4 July – Labour retains the Walton seat at a by-election, with new MP Peter Kilfoyle gaining more than half of the vote.
  • 5 July – The Bank of England closes down the Bank of Credit and Commerce International amid fraud allegations. Several local authorities in the UK lose millions of pounds in investments held with the bank.[25]
  • 8 July – Two suspected IRA terrorists shoot their way out of Brixton Prison in London.
  • 11 July – Labour MP, Terry Fields, joins the list of people jailed for refusal to pay the poll tax after he receives a sixty-day prison sentence. He is the first MP to be jailed for refusing to pay the controversial tax which was introduced early last year.[26]
  • 15 July – 17th G7 summit held in London.
  • 16 July – A government survey of children's school reading reveals that Roald Dahl, who died eight months earlier, has now overtaken Enid Blyton as the most popular author of children's books.
  • 17 July – The Ultimate steel roller coaster, Europe's longest, opens at Lightwater Valley theme park in North Yorkshire.
  • 18 July – Economists warn that unemployment will reach 3,000,000 people (a level not seen since early-1987) by the end of next year.
  • 23 July – The Ministry of Defence proposes the merge of 22 army regiments as part of a general reform programme.[9]
  • 24 July – Chancellor Norman Lamont assures the House of Commons that the economic recovery will begin before the end of this year.


  • 8 August – John McCarthy, a British hostage held in Lebanon for over five years is freed.[27]
  • 12 August – The Times reports that every job vacancy is being chased by 22 applicants.
  • 16 August – The Bank of England declares that the worst of the current recession is now over.
  • 23 August – Growing confidence over economic recovery has helped boost the Conservative government's popularity, as they return to the top of the MORI poll with a two-point lead over Labour putting them on 42%.[6]
  • 29 August
    • Rioting breaks out in Leeds and Cardiff.
    • Princess Diana attends the funeral of Adrian Ward-Jackson, her friend who died of AIDS earlier this month.
    • Alick Buchanan-Smith, Conservative MP for Kincardine and Deeside, dies aged 59.
  • 30 August – Scottish runner Liz McColgan becomes the first British gold medalist at the World Athletics Championships in Tokyo, Japan.


  • September – Gordon Roddick and A. John Bird launch the Big Issue, a then-monthly magazine to be sold by homeless people in response to growing number of rough sleepers on the streets of London.[28]
  • 3 September – Following the recent outbreaks of violence in Leeds and Cardiff, rioting breaks out at Handsworth in Birmingham, Kates Hill in Dudley and Blackbird Leys in Oxford.
  • 12 September – Unemployment has hit 2,400,000 – the highest level since the spring of 1988 – completing a 50% rise in just over a year. However, the rate of rising unemployment is slowing down and retail sales are improving.
  • 13 September – Further rioting breaks out in Tyneside.
  • 14 September – George Buckley, Labour MP for Hemsworth in West Yorkshire, dies aged 56.
  • 15 September – A poll shows that Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock is a liability to his party, who are now behind John Major's Conservative Party in the opinion polls.
  • 17 September – Neil Kinnock hits out at claims that he is to blame for his party falling behind in the opinion polls, sparking speculation that John Major will call a general election within the next two months.
  • 19 September – Robin Leigh-Pemberton, governor of the Bank of England, says that he is confident the recession is now over in Britain.
  • 20 September – Richard Holt, Conservative MP for Langbaurgh in Cleveland, dies suddenly at the age of sixty.
  • 25 September – Kidnappers in Beirut release hostage Jackie Mann after over two years in captivity.[9]


  • October – Vauxhall launches the third generation of its popular Astra family hatchback and estate, with saloon and cabriolet variants due next year.
  • 2 October – Just over two weeks after Neil Kinnock was damned by a poll as a "liability" to the Labour Party, the leader and his MPs are celebrating after they overtake the Conservatives by two points in the opinion polls.
  • 9 October – The first Sumo tournmament to be held outside Japan is hosted at the Royal Albert Hall in London.[29]
  • 11 October – John Major outlines his vision of a "classless" Britain at a Conservative Party conference at Blackpool, where his predecessor Margaret Thatcher voices her support for him.
  • 16 October – The ITV franchise auction results are announced and many notable names go off air including Thames Television, TVS, TSW, TV-am and ORACLE Teletext. The changes take effect at midnight GMT on 1 January 1993.
  • 17 October – The smallest monthly rise in unemployment since last November is cited by the government as an "unmistakable" sign that the recession is drawing to a close.
  • 18 October – Labour's hopes of election success are boosted by the latest MORI poll, which shows them six points ahead of the Conservatives on 45%.[30]
  • 19 October – Canadian singer Bryan Adams makes history when his hit single (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, which features in the film Robin Hood:Prince of Thieves (released on 14 June this year, and starring Kevin Costner) enters its fifteenth successive week at #1 in the UK singles charts.
  • 22 October – Leonora Knatchbull, the five-year-old daughter of Norton Knatchbull, 8th Baron Brabourne and his wife Penelope, dies after a one-year battle with a kidney tumour. She was also a great-grandchild of Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was murdered by the IRA in 1979. She is buried at Romsey Abbey on 26 October.[31]
  • 23 October – In the legal case of R v R decided on appeal, the Law Lords unanimously decide that spousal rape is a crime in England and Wales, overturning the principle established by Chief Justice Hale in 1736.[32]
  • 27 October – (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, the power ballad performed by Canadian singer Bryan Adams, loses its position at #1 on the singles charts after a record sixteen consecutive weeks, displaced by U2's The Fly.
  • 29 October – Hopes that the recession is drawing to a close are boosted by CBI findings, which show that manufacturers are now more optimistic than at any time in the past three years.


  • November
  • 5 November – Robert Maxwell, owner of numerous business interests including the Daily Mirror newspaper, is found dead off the coast of Tenerife; his cause of death is unconfirmed, but reports suggest that he has committed suicide.[35]
  • 7 November – Labour retains control of Hemsworth at the by-election, with new MP Derek Enright, while the Liberal Democrats gain Kincardine and Deeside from the Conservatives at another by-election. A third by-election sees the Conservatives lose the Langbaurgh constituency to Labour, with 35-year-old Indian-born candidate Ashok Kumar becoming the new MP.
  • 9 November – First ever controlled and substantial production of fusion energy achieved at the Joint European Torus in Oxford.[36]
  • 15 November – Britain's hopes of economic recovery are dealt with a major blow when shares on the Wall Street Stock Exchange fall by 120 points.
  • 16 November – Two IRA bombers die in St Albans, Hertfordshire, when a bomb explodes prematurely.
  • 18 November – Terry Waite, a British hostage held in Lebanon, is freed after four-and-a-half years in captivity.[37]
  • 23 November – Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of rock band Queen, announces that he is suffering from AIDS, following lengthy media speculation about his health.
  • 24 November – Freddie Mercury dies at his home in London, just 24 hours after going public with the news that he was suffering from AIDS.[38]
  • 25 November – The Court of Appeal quashes the convictions of Winston Silcott, Engin Raghip and Mark Braithwaite, for the murder of PC Keith Blakelock in the Broadwater Farm riot at Tottenham, North London, six years ago. Raghip and Braithwaite are released from prison, but Silcott remains imprisoned for a separate murder.
  • 26 November – Julin Bristol, the last UK nuclear test, takes place at the Nevada Test Site.[39]
  • 27 November
    • Freddie Mercury is cremated after a funeral service held at West London Crematorium.[40]
    • The government announces that joyriders who are found guilty should face a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment as well as unlimited fines and unlimited automatic driving bans. Joyriding has recently surged across Britain, with almost all of those involved being children and teenagers.[41]
  • 28 November – First performance of Alan Bennett's play The Madness of George III in London.


  • 1 December – Thousands of British shops, including retail giants Asda and Tesco, defy trading laws, and open their doors on a Sunday in a bid to boost trade that has been badly hit by the ongoing recession.
  • 5 December – The Robert Maxwell business empire goes into receivership with debts in excess of £1,000,000,000, exactly one month after Robert Maxwell's death. The Daily Mirror reports that Maxwell had wrongly removed £350,000,000 from its pension fund shortly before he died.[42]
  • 10 December – Ronald Coase wins the Nobel Prize in Economics "for his discovery and clarification of the significance of transaction costs and property rights for the institutional structure and functioning of the economy".[43]
  • 16 December – Stella Rimington announced as the first female director general of MI5.[44]
  • 19 December – Unemployment is now above 2,500,000 for the first time since early-1988.[45]
  • 23 December – Bohemian Rhapsody returns to the top of the British singles charts after sixteen years, with the proceeds from the re-release being donated to the Terence Higgins Trust.
  • 27 December – The last MORI poll of 1991 shows that Labour are six points ahead of the Conservatives with 44% of the vote.[6]
  • 29 December – A quarterly opinion poll shows that Neil Kinnock and Labour are three points ahead of John Major and the Conservatives, sparking hope for Labour that they will win the next general election (which has to be held within five months) or at least the election will result in a hung parliament for the first time since 1974.


  • The economy remains rooted in the recession which began last year.[46]
  • Despite the deepening recession, inflation has been substantially decreased to 5.9%.[47]
  • One Canada Square at Canary Wharf in London becomes the tallest building in the UK.[clarification needed]
  • The Communist Party of Great Britain dissolves.
  • Scout Groups may admit girls to all their sections.
  • Despite the onset of the recession and a sharp fall in new car sales (with fewer than 1,600,000 new cars being sold in 1991 compared to the record of more than 2,300,000 in 1989), Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK's car plant at Sunderland returns a profit for the first time, making £18,400,000 this year. It currently only makes the Primera family saloon and hatchbacks there, but from August next year it will be joined by the new version of the smaller Micra.[48]
  • Sea defences at Mappleton in Holderness are built.




See also[edit]


  1. ^ "1991: Britain expels Iraqi diplomats". BBC News. 3 January 1991. Archived from the original on 6 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  2. ^ https://www.expressandstar.com/days/1976-2000/1991.html
  3. ^ "1991: One dead as train crashes into buffers". BBC News. 8 January 1991. Archived from the original on 8 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  4. ^ https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199091/cmhansrd/1991-02-05/Writtens-1.html
  5. ^ "1991: 'Mother of all Battles' begins". BBC News. 17 January 1991. Archived from the original on 1 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Poll tracker: Interactive guide to the opinion polls". BBC News. 29 September 2009. Archived from the original on 17 December 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "1991: Birmingham Six on verge of freedom". BBC News. 25 February 1991. Archived from the original on 29 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Palmer, Alan; Veronica (1992). The Chronology of British History. London: Century Ltd. p. 459. ISBN 0-7126-5616-2. 
  10. ^ "1991: Birmingham Six freed after 16 years". BBC News. 14 March 1991. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  11. ^ "1991: Tories launch 'citizen charter'". BBC News. 23 March 1991. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  12. ^ "1991: Family anger at Hillsborough verdict". BBC News. 28 March 1991. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  13. ^ "1991: Orkney 'abuse' children go home". BBC News. 4 April 1991. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  14. ^ "Hughes destroys former club". New Straits Times. Malaysia. 1991-05-17. p. 24. Retrieved 2016-12-02. 
  15. ^ "1991: Sharman becomes first Briton in space". BBC News. 18 May 1991. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  16. ^ http://www.cbrd.co.uk/histories/chronologymaps/1991.shtml
  17. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 January 2010. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  18. ^ Wainwright, Stephen (2011). "Sutton Manor Colliery, Part 2 (1960–1991)". Sutton Beauty & Heritage. Retrieved 2012-07-14. 
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ "1991: IRA men shot dead by British army". BBC News. 3 June 1991. Archived from the original on 1 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  21. ^ Welch, Rosanne (1998). "Gibson, Julie Ann". Encyclopedia of Women in Aviation and Space. Santa Barbara; Oxford: ABC-Clio. p. 79. ISBN 0-87436-958-4. 
  22. ^ "1991: Thatcher to retire from Commons". BBC News. 28 June 1991. Retrieved 31 December 2009. 
  23. ^ [3]
  24. ^ http://bufvc.ac.uk/tvandradio/lbc/index.php/segment/0006500436011
  25. ^ "1991: International bank closed in fraud scandal". BBC News. 5 July 1991. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  26. ^ "1991: Anti-poll tax MP jailed". BBC News. 11 July 1991. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  27. ^ "1991: Beirut hostage John McCarthy freed". BBC News. 8 August 1991. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  28. ^ "The Big Issue History". 2009-03-01. Retrieved 2018-03-07. 
  29. ^ Penguin Pocket On This Day. Penguin Reference Library. 2006. ISBN 0-14-102715-0. 
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-04. 
  31. ^ "Norton, 8th Lord Brabourne". Mountbattenofburma.com. 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  32. ^ Jerrard, Rob (22 November 1991). "Marital Rape". Internet Law Book Reviews. Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  33. ^ "PC World". shoplaptop. Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  34. ^ "About UKIP". Torbay UK Independence Party. Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  35. ^ "1991: Publisher Robert Maxwell dies at sea". BBC News. 5 November 1991. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  36. ^ "JET Achieves Fusion Power Press Release". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  37. ^ "1991: Church envoy Waite freed in Beirut". BBC News. 18 November 1991. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  38. ^ "1991: Giant of rock dies". BBC News. 24 November 1991. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  39. ^ "History of the British Nuclear Arsenal". Nuclear Weapon Archive. 2002. Archived from the original on 19 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  40. ^ "Zoroastria Funeral for Queen's Star". mb21 Teletext Then and Now. 27 November 1991. Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  41. ^ "Joyriding". 27 November 1991. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  42. ^ "1991: Maxwell business empire faces bankruptcy". BBC News. 5 December 1991. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  43. ^ "The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1991". Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  44. ^ "Hansard". Retrieved 2008-04-07. 
  45. ^ [4]
  46. ^ The Hutchinson Factfinder. Helicon. 1999. p. 665. ISBN 1-85986-000-1. 
  47. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 February 2006. Retrieved 2009-12-28. 
  48. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2011. 

External links[edit]