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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