Disabled rights pioneer Lord Morris of Manchester dies


A look back at the life of Lord Morris

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Disability rights pioneer and Labour peer Lord Morris of Manchester has died at the age of 84.

As Alf Morris, he was MP for Manchester Wythenshawe from 1964 to 1997 and became the UK's first minister for the disabled in 1974.

His work led to the first disability rights legislation, 1970's Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said he was deeply saddened and described the peer as "a Labour man through and through."

Lord Morris's act, which sought to give people with disabilities equal opportunities in society, faced opposition from within his own party and was almost scuppered when the 1970 general election was called by Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

However, it survived in the short "wash-up" period before the election and became law, the first of its kind in the world.

It set down specific provisions to improve access and support for people with disabilities.

'Transformed lives'

Lord Morris went on to become the UK's first Minister for Disabled People in 1974, introducing benefits for disabled people and their carers, including a mobility allowance.

He was made a life peer in 1997.

Mr Miliband said Lord Morris was a pioneering campaigner for vulnerable people, adding: "As a member, activist, MP and peer, he always stood up for Labour's values and devoted his career to improving the lives of the less fortunate in Britain's society."

Baroness Royall, Labour leader in the Lords, said: "With his Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act - the very first act to give rights to people with disabilities - he transformed the lives of millions and millions of people throughout the world.

"He championed the rights of disabled people, including injured service personnel, throughout his life and was deeply committed to public service."

Lord Morris died in hospital on Sunday after a short illness. He is survived by his wife, Irene, two sons and two daughters.

'Good old-fashioned socialist'

Tony Lloyd, MP for Manchester Central and a close friend of Lord Morris, said the city had "lost a great son".

"I've lost a friend [and] disabled people have lost a champion," he said.

"The things he did for Manchester and the things he did for disabled people up and down the country is not simply on the record, it's lived out day to day by people whose lives have been made better because of Alf's career.

"Alf had grown up in Newton Heath in a tough world and he'd seen what poverty did. I think Alf was totally sympathetic to the plight of people who needed the rest of us to give them a bit of even break in society and I think that's what drove him."

He added Lord Morris had been "a good old-fashioned Labour socialist [and] someone who believed in the social and justice agenda and wanted to make sure that was available to everybody".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    In response to the very valid query by Comment No.1 "1958inbetweener" the 1970 Bill faced opposition from within the Labour Party and, in particular, from the Labour Social Services Minister, Richard Crossman. Yes, on principle! (see link)


    Plus ça change, plus c'est la même!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Lord Alf of Manchester grew up in Newton Heath after his father was gassed in the First World War. His mother was told that as her husband was dead, she would no longer be able to live in their home as that was for people who were married and had an income. Mrs Morris, Alf mother and a great friend of my grandmother was allowed to move to Newton Heath from Ancoats. He will be sadly missed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Good man, and I hope he didn't die with too much disappointment at the unfortunate abuse of the disability system generally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    You adopt the Tory approach of inventing an atypical straw dog, i. e. disability benefit scroungers, some of whom exist but not many, exaggerate their numbers and campaign against disability benefits in general. The result: misery amongst the real disabled, a disabled friend has had his transport allowance removed which means he can't go out!
    In with Alf Morris out with the Daily Mail

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    RIP Alf Morris, Labour without the 'Nu',defender of those less advantaged
    As person who work shifts including 12hr nights searching lorries for illegal migrants and drugs that British truck drivers are smuggling,I am rather tired of uninformed,selfish people telling me I am a 'lazy and bloated' civil servant.I wonder if they would think the same if they,or their children were disabled?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    He was certainly what "old" Labour stood for. A champion for the common man. Sadly like too many of his ilk, men like him are far too thin on the ground. Everything these days is about money, & how to deprive the sick, I'll, incapacitated, disabled, of what Alf Morris fought for. He will be sadly missedm however, never forgotten.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Lord Morris is someone that anyone of any political persuasion can look up to given hsi work for the disabled. With the Paralympics starting, I hope the organisers and government can do something to recognise his national and international influence on those who have needed supporters in government in order to acheive an equal footing in life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    My memories of Alf go back to my childhood. My parents John and Elsie and their friends helped him to get elected in Wythenshawe. He was a frequent visitor to our house over the years and he never forgot that band of friends who helped him on his way. Even when he became a Lord they were never forgotten. Our thoughts go out to Irene and his family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Alf was a decent man who knew how real people live and went into politics to improve their lot. The present lot are ambitious 'suits' with no life experience, no knowledge of social history and no honest convictions except that they believe they deserve their ill gotten gains. R I P Alf, a good man.

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    We need truly honourable politicians like him to fight this now !


  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    35 Ha ha, we have classic new Socialist hypocrite, people; criticise what I have done, when in reality I mere copied you. Have a Diane Abbot public school place, a Ken Livingston tax dodge and a Bob Crown council house while on £150k. You silly sausage. ; )

    37 "few disabled people flatulently claim benefits" possibly you meant fraudulantly? : )

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    @37 - unfortunate typo....

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    In the 70's & 80's UK citizens were infected by Government with many pathogens including Hep C, HIV, and vCJD etc, and thousands died.

    This man fought tirelessly for these people to receive the recognition and support they deserve. He was a man of principle, honour and integrity - we will not see his like again.

    May you RIP Lord Morris

    Glenn Wilkinson
    Contaminated Blood Campaign

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    A rare spieces indeed! I wonder how many companies got round all the good parts of this legislation via tokenist observence! We have 1 disabled person sight / hearing impaired, another 1 who's suffers from an age learning disability. Company employees >1500 UK workers....

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    33 He wouldn't be Labour these days; the welfare state has bloated too big and will soon collapse as the vested interests are finally tackled. Labour is no long the party of the working man, it is the party the non-working scrounger and the lazy "public servant". All the working man can hope for it someone strong enough to stand up to the "me too" screaming for a bit. Cameron suffices for now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    A sad loss at a time when the Con-Dems are blaming the sick & disabled for being sick & disabled, the removal of medical evidence from assessments is shameful & something I am sure Lord Morris would have fought against.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Contrary to popular opinion, few disabled people flatulently claim benefits. Those people who do, are not disabled. The current government helped Lord Morris to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his Act. Whilst there is still more to do, society has made great progress in increasing equality for disabled people; this year’s Olympics are the first ever to have equal billing with the Paralympics.


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