1990 in the United Kingdom

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Events from the year 1990 in the United Kingdom.





  • 9 February – Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran renews his fatwa on British author Salman Rushdie, which he imposed last year following controversy over the author's book: The Satanic Verses.
  • 15 February
    • The UK and Argentina restore diplomatic relations after eight years. Diplomatic ties were broken off in response to Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982.
    • Neil Kinnock's dream of being prime minister appears closer to becoming reality as the latest MORI poll shows Labour on 51% with a 17-point lead over the Conservatives.[4]
  • 20 February – Three people are injured in Leicester city centre by a bomb explosion.
  • 26 February – Fourteen people are killed as storms hit Britain. One of the worst-hit areas is Towyn in North Wales, where approximately 2,000 people are evacuated from their homes after huge waves smash a 200-yard hole in the sea wall and cause a major flood.
  • 27 February – Economists warn that house prices could fall by up to 10% this year.


  • 1 March – The Official Secrets Act 1989 comes into force.[4]
  • 7 March – Halifax Building Society reveals that house prices rose by 0.3% last month – the first monthly rise since July last year.
  • 9 March – 37 people are arrested and 10 police officers injured in Brixton, London, during rioting against the new Community Charge.
  • 13 March – The ambulance crew dispute ends after six months when workers agree to a 17.6% pay rise.
  • 15 March
    • Iraq hangs British journalist Farzad Bazoft for spying. Daphne Parish, a British nurse, is sentenced to fifteen years in prison for being an accomplice to Mr Bazoft.
    • Britain's unemployment is now down to 1,610,000 – the lowest since 1978. However, it is a drop of just 2,000 on January's total and economists fear that a sharp rise in unemployment could soon begin as there are widespread fears of a recession.
  • 21 March – Allan Roberts, Labour MP for Bootle, dies of cancer aged 46.
  • 23 March – The Duke and Duchess of York's second daughter, Princess Eugenie of York, is born.
  • 31 March – 200,000 protesters in Poll Tax Riots in London[5] in the week preceding official introduction of the Community Charge.



  • May – Rover Group launches a new version of its popular Metro supermini, which has been the best-selling BL/Austin Rover car since its 1980 launch. General Motors launches the Vauxhall Calibra, built by Opel in Germany, onto the UK market.
  • 3 May – The end of house price inflation is declared by Halifax Building Society, two years after the housing market peaked.
  • 4 May – The local council elections see Labour win more local council seats than the Conservatives. Neil Kinnock's hopes of victory in the next general election are further boosted by the fact that Labour have finished ahead in most of opinion polls for the last 12 months.
  • 7 May – The Prince and Princess of Wales travel to Budapest for the first postwar British royal visit there.
  • 8 May – Billy Cartman, a 33-year-old grouter, becomes the sixth Briton to die in the construction of the Channel Tunnel when he is crushed by heavy machinery.
  • 11 May – Inflation now stands at 9.4% – the highest level for eight years.
  • 12 May – The final of the FA Cup ends in a 3–3 draw between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium.
  • 17 May – Manchester United win the FA Cup final replay 1–0 at Wembley Stadium, with the only goal of the game being scored by defender Lee Martin. Manchester United have now won the FA Cup seven times, equalling the record already held by Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur.
  • 19 May
    • British agriculture Minister John Gummer feeds a hamburger to his five-year-old daughter to counter rumours about the spread of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy and its transmission to humans.
    • Unemployment is reported to have risen for the first time in nearly four years.
  • 24 May – Bobby Robson announces that he will not be renewing his contract as manager of the England national football team after the World Cup in Italy this summer.
  • 25 May – The "rump" Social Democratic Party (consisting of members who backed out of the merger with the Liberal Party which formed the Liberal Democrats two years ago) finishes behind the Monster Raving Loony Party in the Bootle by-election, where Labour retain power under new MP Michael Carr.
  • 30 May – France bans British beef and live cattle imports as a precaution against fears of BSE being spread.


  • 1 June – An army recruit is shot dead and two others are wounded by two suspected IRA gunmen in Lichfield, Staffordshire.
  • 3 June – The "rump" Social Democratic Party is wound up, two years after a splinter group refused to join up in the merger with the Liberal Democrats.
  • 7 June – France, Italy and West Germany lift bans on British beef imposed during the BSE outbreak.[7]
  • 14 June
    • The proposed high-speed rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel is shelved.
    • Unemployment rises for the second month running, though by just over 4,000 to a total of 1,611,000 in May.
  • 20 June – Chancellor of the Exchequer John Major proposes the "hard ecu", a currency which would circulate into parallel with national currencies as an alternative to full monetary union.[8]


  • 2 July – Girobank Plc privatised by sale to the Alliance & Leicester Group.
  • 4 July – England's hopes of World Cup glory are ended by a penalty shootout defeat in the semi-final against West Germany after a 1–1 draw in Turin.
  • 10 July –
  • 11 July – Labour MP's accuse the Conservative government of "fraud" amid allegations that the 1,600,000 fall in unemployment since 1986 included a million people leaving the list without finding work.
  • 14 July – Trade and Industry Secretary Nicholas Ridley resigns following an interview in The Spectator in which he likened the European Union to Hitler's Germany.[9]
  • 16 July
    • An official report reveals that High Street sales are at their lowest since 1980, sparking further fears of a recession.
    • Nigel Mansell, Britain's most successful racing driver of the last 10 years, announces that he is to retire from Grand Prix races at the end of the 1990 season.
    • Graham Taylor, the manager of Aston Villa F.C., is appointed as the England team's new manager.
  • 17 July – German food superstore chain Aldi opens its first British store in Birmingham and plans to have up to 200 stores across the country by 1993.
  • 19 July – Saddam Hussein, dictator of Iraq, frees Daphne Parish from prison for "humanitarian reasons" and she returns to Britain.
  • 20 July
  • 24 July – A Roman Catholic nun and three police officers are killed by an IRA landmine in County Armagh.
  • 30 July – An IRA car bomb kills British MP Ian Gow, a staunch unionist, after he assured the IRA that the British government would never surrender to them.
  • 31 July – The England cricket team defeats the India national cricket team in a high-scoring Lord's test match totalling 1,603 runs.[10]


  • 1 August – British Airways Flight 149 is seized by the Iraqi Army at Kuwait International Airport following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
  • 3 August – The 1990 heat wave peaks with a temperature of 37.1 °C (98.8 °F) recorded at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
  • 5 August – Margaret Thatcher announces her desire for a new Magna Carta to guarantee basic rights for all European citizens.
  • 14 August – A survey carried out by the BBC reveals that 20% of taxpayers in England and Wales had not paid their Community Charge by 30 June this year.[11]
  • 16 August – A MORI poll shows that Labour now has a 15-point lead over the Conservatives with 50% of the vote, while support to the Liberal Democrats has doubled to 10% over the last seven months.[1]
  • 22 August – James MacMillan's symphonic piece The Confession of Isobel Gowdie premieres at The Proms in London.
  • 23 August –
    • British hostages in Iraq are paraded on TV.[12]
    • Ford launches the new version of its Escort hatchback, estate and cabriolet, and Orion saloon, two cars with combined sales figures which account more than 10% of new cars sold in Britain. Sales of the two cars begin in Britain and the rest of Europe next month.[13]
  • 24 August – Irish hostage Brian Keenan is released in Beirut, Lebanon, after being held a hostage there for more than four years.
  • 27 August


  • September – The new Ford Escort and Orion go on sale.
  • 8 September – York City footballer David Longhurst, 24, collapses and dies during a Football League Fourth Division match.
  • 10 September – Pegasus, a leading British travel operator, goes bankrupt.
  • 18 September – Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Terry survives a murder attempt by IRA terrorists at his home near Stafford.[6]
  • 22 September – John Banham, a leading British industrial minister, warns that most of Britain is now affected by a recession and that there is worse to come. The latest CBI prediction is also the gloomiest since 1980, the last time Britain was in recession. Fears of a recession have been growing across most of the world since the autumn of last year. However, chancellor John Major denies that Britain is on the verge of a recession.[15]
  • 26 September – Margaret Thatcher joins in with the politicians who are denying that the British economy is slumping into recession, despite manufacturers reporting their biggest drop in output since 1982, as well as a growing number of bankruptcies.



  • November
    • Government produces Planning Policy Guidance 16: Archaeology and Planning to advise local authorities on the treatment of archaeology within the planning process. Site developers are required to contract with archaeological teams to have sites investigated in advance of development.
    • Neil Kinnock, who has been leader of the Labour Party since October 1983, is now the longest serving opposition leader in British political history.[17]
  • 1 November
  • 2 November
  • 8 November – The second Bootle by-election of the year sees Labour hold onto the seat once more with new MP Joe Benton gaining nearly 80% of the votes.
  • 12 November – The Football Association deducts Arsenal two points and Manchester United one point and fines both clubs £50,000 for a mass player brawl in a Football League match between the two clubs last month in a league match at Old Trafford.
  • 13 November – Geoffrey Howe makes a dramatic resignation speech in the House of Commons, attacking the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher's hostility towards the EC.
  • 14 November –
    • The CBI confirms that the whole of Britain is now in recession, with every region now reporting a fall in output.
    • Former cabinet minister Michael Heseltine announces that he will challenge Margaret Thatcher's leadership.
  • 15 November – Despite constant disputes in the government and widespread doubt over Mrs Thatcher's position as prime minister and party leader, combined with recent by-election defeats and anger over the poll tax, the Conservatives have cut Labour's lead in the opinion polls to four points as they gain 41% of the vote in the latest MORI poll.[1]
  • 19 November – Major job cuts are reported to be on the way at the Rover Group, Britain's largest independent carmaker.
  • 20 November – Margaret Thatcher fails to win outright victory in a leadership contest for the Conservative Party.[21]
  • 22 November – Margaret Thatcher announces her resignation as Leader of the Conservative Party and therefore as Prime Minister, having led the government for more than 11 years and the Conservative Party for over 15 years. She was the longest serving prime minister of the 20th century.[22]
  • 26 November – Plastic surgeons Michael Masser and Kenneth Patton are murdered in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
  • 27 November – John Major is elected leader of the Conservative Party and becomes Britain's new prime minister, defeating Douglas Hurd and Michael Heseltine. At 47, Major is the youngest British prime minister of the 20th century. He is to be officially appointed prime minister tomorrow at Buckingham Palace.[23]
  • 28 November – John Major is officially appointed Prime Minister by the Queen, as Margaret Thatcher officially tenders her resignation after leaving 10 Downing Street for the last time.[24]


  • 1 December
    • Channel Tunnel workers from the United Kingdom and France meet 40 metres beneath the English Channel seabed,[10] establishing the first land connection between the United Kingdom and the mainland of Europe for around 8,000 years.
    • The CBI predicts that the recession will last longer than predicted, and that GDP is likely to fall by at least 1% in 1991.
  • 3 December – The mother of Gail Kinchin is awarded £8,000 in High Court, a decade after her pregnant 16-year-old daughter was killed by a police marksman who intervened with a siege at the Birmingham flat where she was being held hostage by her boyfriend.[7]
  • 6 December
    • Saddam Hussein announces that all British hostages in Iraq are to be released.
    • House price inflation has returned and stands at 0.2% for November, the first year-on-year rise in house prices since February.[25]
  • 8 December – The UK grinds to a halt following heavy snow overnight. Large parts of the country are without power after snowfall brings down power lines, disrupting the electricity supply. Many rural areas are cut off for several days, while the Army is called out to help restore power. There is grim news for the retail industry as a CBI survey reports that retail sales have hit a standstill and High Street employment will fall.
  • 11 December
    • The first British hostages in Iraq released by Saddam Hussein arrive back in the UK.
    • The government makes £42 million compensation available to the 1,200 British haemophiliacs infected with the AIDS virus through blood transfusions.
  • 12 December – The new chancellor Norman Lamont rules out an early cut in interest rates which critics, including opposition MP's, claim would be a quick route out of recession.
  • 13 December
    • Russell Bishop is sentenced to life imprisonment for the abduction, indecent assault and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl in Brighton in February this year. He was cleared of the murder of two young girls in Brighton four years ago.
    • Poundland, a supermarket chain selling all items for £1, opens its first store at Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire.[26]
    • Netto, a Danish discount food supermarket chain, launches its first UK store in Leeds.
    • The sharpest rise in unemployment since 1981 has taken it to more than 1,700,000, with 155,000 jobs having been lost in Britain since April. Economists blame high interest rates; a government method to combat inflation.[27]
  • 19 December – Tony Adams, the Arsenal captain and England defender, is sentenced to four months in prison for a drink-driving offence committed near his home in Southend-on-Sea on 6 May this year. He is also fined £500 and banned from driving for two years.
  • 20 December
    • British women Karyn Smith (aged 19) and Patricia Cahill (aged 20) receive 25-year prison sentences in Thailand for heroin smuggling after being arrested in Bangkok five months ago. Their lawyers are planning to ask for a Royal pardon.
    • An era ends in the Rhondda, South Wales, when the last coalmine closes after more than 100 years of heavy coalmining in the region. 300 miners have lost their jobs and just seventeen will remain employed in the industry elsewhere.
  • 23 December – The nine-month-old daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York is christened Eugenie Victoria Helena.[28]
  • 25 December – Storms on Christmas Day leave more than 100,000 British homes without power.
  • 26 December – The fatwa (order to kill) against Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie is upheld by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, more than one year after it was first issued. Rushdie is still living in hiding.[29]
  • 27 December – The latest MORI poll shows that Conservative support has been boosted by the appointment of John Major, with his party now just four points behind Labour – eight months after Labour had peaked with a 23-point lead.[8]
  • 29 December – Leading economists warn that the recession creeping upon Britain will deepen during 1991 and unemployment is likely to increase to well over 2,000,000 from the current total of over 1,700,000.
  • 30 December – An opinion poll shows Labour slightly ahead of the Conservatives for the first time since John Major became prime minister.
  • 31 December – 89-year-old author Barbara Cartland becomes a Dame in the New Year's Honours.


  • Inflation reached 9.5% for the first time since 1981.[30]
  • 0.1% of the UK population (some 60,000 people) now have access to the internet.




See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Poll tracker: Interactive guide to the opinion polls". BBC News. 29 September 2009. Archived from the original on 14 April 2010. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  2. ^ "1990: Rebel cricketers face storm of protest". BBC News. 19 January 1990. Archived from the original on 23 January 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  3. ^ "1990: Children killed in devastating storm". BBC News. 25 January 1990. Archived from the original on 28 January 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  4. ^ "1990: Secrets act gags whistleblowers". BBC News. 1 March 1990. Archived from the original on 5 March 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  5. ^ "1990: Violence flares in poll tax demonstration". BBC News. 31 March 1990. Archived from the original on 18 January 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  6. ^ "1990: Customs seize 'supergun'". BBC News. 11 April 1990. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  7. ^ "1990: Three countries lift beef export ban". BBC News. 7 June 1990. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  8. ^ "1990: Major proposes new Euro currency". BBC News. 20 June 1990. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  9. ^ Palmer, Alan; Veronica (1992). The Chronology of British History. London: Century Ltd. p. 457. ISBN 0-7126-5616-2.
  10. ^ a b Penguin Pocket On This Day. Penguin Reference Library. 2006. ISBN 0-14-102715-0.
  11. ^ ""One in five yet to pay poll tax", BBC On This Day". BBC News. 14 August 1990. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  12. ^ "1990: Outrage at Iraqi TV hostage show". BBC News. 23 August 1990. Archived from the original on 1 February 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  13. ^ "COMPANY NEWS; Ford Introduces European Line". The New York Times. 23 August 1990. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
  14. ^ "1990: 'Guinness Four' guilty". BBC News. 27 August 1990. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  15. ^ "YouTube – Channel 4 News Summary, September 1990". Archived from the original on 22 June 2009. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  16. ^ "1990: Britain's first full day in ERM". BBC News. 8 October 1990. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ "1990: Howe resigns over Europe policy". BBC News. 1 November 1990. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  19. ^ "Courts and Legal Services Act 1990". Legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  20. ^ The Hutchinson Factfinder. Helicon. 1999. ISBN 1-85986-000-1.
  21. ^ "1990: Thatcher fails to win party mandate". BBC News. 20 November 1990. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  22. ^ "1990: Thatcher quits as prime minister". BBC News. 22 November 1990. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  23. ^ "1990: Tories choose Major for Number 10". BBC News. 27 November 1990. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  24. ^ "1990: Tearful farewell from Iron Lady". BBC News. 28 November 1990. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  25. ^ [2]
  26. ^ "Poundland – Review". Retrieved 30 December 2009.
  27. ^ [3]
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
  29. ^ "1990: Iranian leader upholds Rushdie fatwa". BBC News. 26 December 1990. Archived from the original on 8 April 2008. Retrieved 26 April 2008.
  30. ^ "Inflation: the Value of the Pound 1750–1998" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 February 2006. Retrieved 28 December 2009.

External links[edit]