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Events from the year 1991 in the United Kingdom.




  • 3 January - The UK expels all Iraqi diplomats from the country due to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait five months ago.[1]
  • 8 January - A train crash at Cannon Street station in London kills one person and injures over 500.[2]
  • 11 January - As the recession deepens, 335 workers 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 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.
  • 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. [1]
  • 17 January - The Gulf War begins, as the Royal Air Force joins Allied aircraft in bombing raids on Iraq.[3]
  • 18 January - In spite of the deepening recession, the Tories have climbed back to the top of the opinion polls and a MORI poll places them five points ahead of Labour on 46%. [2]
  • 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 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.
  • 7 February - The Provisional Irish Republican Army launch a mortar attack against 10 Downing Street, blowing in all the windows of the cabinet room, during a session of the War Cabinet.
  • 8 February - Heavy snow disrupts the country for a second time during the winter 1990-1991 season as Britain experiences a prolonged cold snap.
  • 18 February - The IRA explodes bombs in the early morning at both Paddington station and Victoria station in London.
  • 25 February - Alan Green, Director of Public Prosecution, announces that the Birmingham Six could soon be free from prison after 17 years as their convictions for terrorism and mass murder are no longer considered safe and satisfactory.[4]
  • 28 February - Iraq accepts a provisional ceasefire, and British troops halt their advance on Baghdad.[5]
  • 8 March - Ribble Valley, the tenth safest Tory seat in Britain, is won by the Liberal Democrats in a by-election.
  • 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.[6] Unemployment is now above 2,000,000 for the first time since March 1989. The number of British workers employed in the manufacturing industry has fallen below 5,000,000 for the first time since record began.
  • 15 March - Unemployment in Britain now stands at above 2,000,000 for the first time since February 1989.
  • 21 March - Education Secretary Kenneth Clarke announces plans to remove further education and sixth form colleges from local authority control.
  • 23 March
    • The Government launches its Citizen's Charter campaign.[7]
    • John Major announces the abolition of Poll tax.
  • 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 almost two years ago. Many of the victims' families criticise the verdict, as many of them had been hoping for a verdict of unlawful killing against the police officers who patrolled the game.[8]
  • 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.[9]
  • 8 April - The Football Association announces plans for a new "super league" of 18 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 Tories 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 15 months, now gaining 15% of the vote. [3]
  • 19 April - George Carey enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury.[5]
  • 23 April - Government announces that the unpopular Poll Tax is to be replaced by a new Council Tax.[5]
  • 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 make a winning return to European competitions for English clubs after five years of suspension due to the Heysel disaster, by defeating FC Barcelona of Spain 2-1 in the European Cup Winners' Cup final in Rotterdam. Mark Hughes scores both of United's goals as they secure their first European trophy since winning the European Cup in 1968.
  • 16 May - Unemployment is now at 2,175,000 - the highest for well over two years.
  • 17 May - The Tories suffer another by-election victory when Labour gain their Monmouth seat in Wales.
  • 18 May
  • 21 May - South Wales, one of the regions hardest hit 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.
  • 24 May - Labour tops a MORI poll for the first time this year as they stand six points ahead of the Tories on 43%. [4]
  • 29 May
    • The Poll Tax saga which has plagued Britain for last 14 months results in the latest of several objectors being jailed. Martin Blatchford, a disabled 31-year-old father-of-three from Dudley in the West Midlands, is sentenced to 14 days in prison.
    • 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 economy become visible.
  • 3 June - The British Army kill three IRA gunmen in Northern Ireland.[11]
  • 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 opens its new Sainsbury Wing to the public.[5]
  • 13 June - Unemployment is reported to have risen to 2,250,000, but it is the lowest monthly rise reported this year.
  • 19 June - Home Secretary Michael Howard announces a £230million 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 general election, which has to be held within the next 12 months. [5]
  • 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.[12]
  • 8 July - Two suspected IRA terrorists shoot their way out of Brixton Prison in London.
  • 11 July - Labour Party MP, Terry Fields, joins the list of people jailed for refusal to pay Poll Tax after he receives a 60-day prison sentence. He is the first MP to be jailed for refusing to pay the controversial tax which was introduced early last year.[13]
  • 14 July - Nigel Mansell achieves the 17th Grand Prix victory of his racing career at Silverstone, Northamptonshire.
  • 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 ago, has now overtaken Enid Blyton as the most popular author of children's books.
  • 19 July - Dean Saunders, 27-year-old Welsh international striker, becomes the most expensive player to be signed by a British club when a £2.9million fee takes him from Derby County to Liverpool, who have broken the record fee in British football for the third time in four years. [6]
  • 23 July - The Ministry of Defence proposes the merge of 22 army regiments as part of a general reform programme.[5]
  • 24 July - Chancellor Norman Lamont assures the House of Commons that the economic recovery will begin before the end of this year.
  • 30 July - Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti sings to a 100,000-strong crowd in London's Hyde Park to commemorate 30 years in opera.[14]
  • 31 July - The High Court gives its approval for the formation of a new Premier League in English football, which is expected to begin next year.
  • 6 August - Tim Berners-Lee establishes the first website at CERN.[15]
  • 8 August - John McCarthy, a British hostage held in Lebanon for over 5 years is freed.[16]
  • 13 August - Prince Charles resigns as patron of Scotland's National Museum over a competition to design a new building.[17]
  • 25 September - Kidnappers in Beirut release hostage Jackie Mann after over 2 years in captivity.[5]
  • 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 Tory government popularity, as they return to the top of the MORI poll with a two-point lead over Labour putting them on 42%. [7]
  • 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.
  • 30 August - Scottish runner Liz McColgan becomes the first British gold medalist at the World Athletics Championships in Tokyo, Japan.
  • 3 September - Following the recent outbreaks of violence in Leeds and Cardiff, rioting breaks out in Birmingham and Oxford.
  • 12 September - Unemployment has hit 2,400,000 - the highest level for three year - completing a 50% rise in just over a year.
  • 13 September - Further rioting breaks out on Tyneside.
  • 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 the Tories 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 that the recession is now over in Britain.
  • 20 September - The Football League and Football Association finally agree on plans to form the new Premier League next season.
  • 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 Tories by two points in the opinion polls.
  • 3 October - The 1991 Rugby World Cup begins in England.
  • 9 October - The first Sumo tournmament to be held oustide Japan is hosted at the Royal Albert Hall in London.[15]
  • 11 October - John Major outlines his vision of a "classless" Britain in a party conference at Blackpool, where his predecessor Margaret Thatcher voices her support for him.
  • 29 October - Hopes that the recession is drawing to a close are boosted by CBI findings that show that manufacturers are now more optimistic than at any time in the past three years.
  • 1 November - The recent upturn in Labour's fortunes seems to have ended as the Tory government is back on top of the opinion polls as the latest MORI poll places them a point ahead at the top of the opinion polls on 42%. [8]
  • 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.[18]
  • 9 November - first ever controlled and substantial production of fusion energy achieved at the Joint European Torus in Oxford.[19]
  • 13 November - The England national football team qualifies for the European Championships which will be held in Sweden next summer when a late goal from striker Gary Lineker seals a 1-1 draw with Poland.
  • 15 November - Britain's hopes of economy 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.[20]
  • 20 November - England striker Gary Lineker agrees a contract to join Grampus Eight of Japan from Tottenham Hotspur at the end of the current English football season.
  • 23 November - Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of rock band Queen, announces that he is suffering from AIDS. The British media had been speculating about 45-year-old Mercury's health since last year.
  • 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.[21]
  • 25 November - Winston Silcott has his conviction for the murder of PC Keith Blakelock quashed. Silcott had been jailed for life in 1987 for the murder of PC Blakelock in the Tottenham riots of 1985, but he will remain imprisoned as he is serving a second life sentence for another unconnected crime.[22]
  • 28 November - First performance of Alan Bennett's play The Madness of George III in London.
  • 29 November - England footballer Gary Lineker announces that his eight-week-old son George is suffering from acute myeloid leukaemia, an illness which has a survival rate of 25%.
  • 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 £1billion+ debts, exactly one month after Robert Maxwell's death. The Daily Mirror today reported that Maxwell had wrongly removed £350million from its pension fund shortly before he died.[23]
  • 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".[24]
  • 16 December - Stella Rimington announced as the first female director general of MI5.[25]
  • 19 December - Unemployment is now above 2,500,000 for the first time in almost four years.
  • 23 December - Bohemian Rhapsody returns to the top of the British singles charts after 16 years, with the re-release's proceeds being donated to the Terence Higgins Trust.
  • 27 December - The last MORI poll of 1991 shows that Labour are six points ahead of the Tories with 44% of the vote. [9]
  • 29 December - A quarterly opinion poll shows that Neil Kinnock and Labour are three points ahead of John Major and the Tories, sparking hope for Labour that they will win the next 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 is in severe recession.[26]
  • Despite the deepening recession, inflation has been substantially decreased to 5.9%. [10]





  1. ^ ""1991: Britain expels Iraqi diplomats", BBC On This Day". 1991-01-03. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  2. ^ ""1991: One dead as train crashes into buffers", BBC On This Day". 1991-01-08. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  3. ^ ""1991: 'Mother of all Battles' begins", BBC On This Day". 1991-01-17. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  4. ^ ""1991: Birmingham Six on verge of freedom", BBC On This Day". 1991-02-25. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  5. ^ 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.  
  6. ^ ""1991: Birmingham Six freed after 16 years", BBC On This Day". 1991-03-14. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  7. ^ ""1991: Tories launch 'citizen charter'", BBC On This Day". 1991-03-23. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  8. ^ ""1991: Family anger at Hillsborough verdict", BBC On This Day". 1991-03-28. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  9. ^ ""1991: Orkney 'abuse' children go home", BBC On This Day". 1991-04-04. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  10. ^ ""1991: Sharman becomes first Briton in space", BBC On This Day". 1991-05-18. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  11. ^ ""1991: IRA men shot dead by British army", BBC On This Day". 1991-06-03. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  12. ^ ""1991: International bank closed in fraud scandal", BBC On This Day". 1991-07-05. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  13. ^ ""1991: Anti-poll tax MP jailed", BBC On This Day". 1991-07-11. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  14. ^ ""1991: Pavarotti sings in the British rain", BBC On This Day". 1991-07-30. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  15. ^ a b Penguin Pocket On This Day. Penguin Reference Library. 2006. ISBN 0-141-02715-0.  
  16. ^ ""1991: Beirut hostage John McCarthy freed", BBC On This Day". 1991-08-08. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  17. ^ ""1991: Prince quits in museum design row", BBC On This Day". 1991-08-13. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  18. ^ ""1991: Publisher Robert Maxwell dies at sea", BBC On This Day". 1991-11-05. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  19. ^ "JET Achieves Fusion Power Press Release". Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  20. ^ ""1991: Church envoy Waite freed in Beirut", BBC On This Day". 1991-11-18. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  21. ^ ""1991: Giant of rock dies", BBC On This Day". 1991-11-24. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  22. ^ ""1991: Silcott not guilty of PC's murder", BBC On This Day". 1991-11-25. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  23. ^ ""1991: Maxwell business empire faces bankruptcy", BBC On This Day". 1991-12-05. Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  24. ^ "The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1991". Retrieved 2008-02-01.  
  25. ^ "Hansard". Retrieved 2008-04-07.  
  26. ^ The Hutchinson Factfinder. Helicon. 1999. p. 665. ISBN 1-85986-000-1.  

See also


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