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Disability pioneer Morris dies at 84
Wednesday 15 August 2012 by Jonathan Rayner
The campaigner who almost single-handedly made it a duty of local authorities to assist disabled people with a range of free services has died aged 84.
Lord Morris of Manchester (Alf Morris) was a Labour MP under prime minister Harold Wilson when in 1970, in the run-up to the general election, he was able to push through the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act.
This act, for the first time, imposed a duty on local authorities to assist disabled people, whereas previous legislation had simply given them the power to assist.
Among other provisions, the act made it the duty of local authorities to give practical assistance in the home; help obtaining radio, TV, library or other recreational services; and access to specially adapted equipment, including telephones.
In 1974 Morris became the UK’s first minister for disabled people introducing, among other rights and benefits, the mobility allowance to people with disabilities and to their carers.
It was while minister for disabled people that he also changed the law affecting armed forces’ pensions. This was a personal crusade for him because his mother had been denied a war widow’s pension when his father died some years after being gassed in the first world war.
In 1991 he introduced a Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill which never made it on to the statute book because the Conservative government at the time argued it was too costly. His campaigning work, however, saw fruition with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. He also led campaigns on Gulf War Syndrome and was president of the Haemophilia Society.
Alf Morris served as MP for Manchester Wythenshawe from 1964 until 1997, when he was created a life peer. He died in hospital on Sunday after a short illness. He is survived by wife Irene, two sons and two daughters.
Morris’ death comes only months after that of Lord Ashley of Stoke (Jack Ashley), whose campaigning as an MP also did much to change attitudes to disability. Both men left school at 14 and knew personal hardship of a kind very few of today’s parliamentarians have experienced. It gave them a moral authority that will be badly missed.
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