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United Kingdom

Yearbook 2002

UK. A train accident at Potters Bar just north of London on May 10 claimed seven lives when a express train derailed and overturned. According to Countryaah website, the accident was caused by a breach on the rail and gave new impetus to the debate on the neglected maintenance of the British railways. A new body was later formed to investigate train accidents.

2002 United Kingdom

The extremely popular Queen Mother Elizabeth passed away on March 30, 101 years old. Ten days of grief was announced. She was buried in the chapel of Windsor Castle next to her husband King George VI.

2002 United KingdomIn early June, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 50th birthday. For four days celebrations were held, among other things. two big concerts in Buckingham Palace's garden with artists such as Kiri Te Kanawa, Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton. The large crowds gathered on the streets at both the Queen Mother's funeral and the Gold Anniversary were seen as a sign that the monarchy was still popular after all.

Several foreign-born persons were arrested in accordance with the new anti-terror law of 2001. In January, two Algerian citizens became the first to be prosecuted in the United Kingdom for membership in the al-Qaeda terrorist network. In October, Jordanian-born Muslim priest Abu Qatada was arrested, suspected of being al-Qaeda's "European ambassador". About ten people were detained without charge.

In November, Prime Minister Blair urged the British to increase vigilance in the face of a possible terror attack in the country.

Britain, together with the United States, pushed the issue of a possible military attack on Iraq. At an extra session on September 24, Blair presented what he described as evidence that Iraq had access to weapons of mass destruction and had tried to procure nuclear weapons. It was later said that the UK was prepared to cooperate with the United States on Iraq on its own unless the UN gave its approval for an attack.

However, the government did not appear to have the opinion and several protests against the war plans were held during the autumn. The largest demonstration, which gathered up to 400,000 people, was held in London at the end of September. Even within the ruling Labor Party there were many who opposed a war against Iraq. At the October party congress, four out of ten delegates highlighted their opposition to an attack.

The Conservative Party continued to have the opinion winds against it and had only a third of voters during the autumn. The dissatisfaction with party leader Iain Duncan Smith also grew within his own party. One sign of this was when eight MPs - including several heavy names such as Kenneth Clarke and Michael Portillo - in November opposed the party line and voted for a government proposal that unmarried and gay people should be allowed to adopt children. This despite the fact that Duncan Smith had made the vote a matter of loyalty to the party.

The question of the position of the Crown Gibraltar could not reach a final solution, despite the fact that a settlement had been promised this summer. This, which would mean increased self-government and shared British and Spanish sovereignty over the area, had no support in Gibraltar. In a referendum in November, 99% of Gibraltar residents voted against Spain's increased influence over the crown colony.

Refugees continued to illegally attempt to reach Britain from France via the tunnel under the channel. Many came via the refugee camp in Sangatte, northern France, located only a few kilometers from the tunnel. During the fall, France agreed to British demands that the camp be closed. The agreement stipulated that the UK would receive 1,000 of the 1,600 refugees present in the camp. The British also promised to tighten up their refugee legislation. The proposals for tougher laws introduced included that refugees who received a first refusal of an asylum application could be deported and that special camps for refugees be set up. A proposal that refugee children should not go to local schools was halted by the upper house, which also called for a number of other changes.

The issue of fox hunting continued to spark debate. In September, at least 200,000 protesters gathered in London to protest a planned ban. This demonstration was seen as a manifestation of the rural population's distrust of the ruling urban elite. A compromise proposal on fox hunting, with a total ban on harp hunting with wild dogs and deer hunting, was presented in December. However, hunting with dogs is allowed in England and Wales but a special license is required. In Scotland hunting with dogs was already prohibited.

At the end of November, 50,000 firefighters went on strike across the country for their demands for a 40 percent pay rise. During the strike, the fire department was managed by the army, whose fire trucks were from the 1950s, and volunteer fire brigades. However, firefighters were back in service when a large part of Edinburgh's old districts were destroyed in a fire in early December.

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