Campaigners and co-operators pay tribute to Alf Morris
Today the sad news was announced that Alf Morris, the Labour & Co-operative peer Lord Morris of Manchester, passed away over the weekend after a short illness. Known around the world for his pioneering disability legislation, Alf was a great friend and supporter of the co-operative movement.
A schoolteacher, Alf first stood as a Co-operative parliamentary candidate in 1951 in Liverpool Garston. He was Labour & Co-operative MP for Wythenshawe from 1964 to 1997, serving in Parliament alongside his brother Charles and, more recently, his niece Estelle Morris.
He is best remembered for his work for the disabled; his private members bill, the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, was a landmark piece of legislation which transformed the lives of disabled people and was the first to recognise and give rights to disabled people. In 1974 he became the world’s first Minister for the Disabled. As he explained during the celebrations to mark 40 years of the Act last year, as featured on this website, Lord Morris was inspired by seeing his father’s long decline and death stemming from being gassed in World War I, and the subsequent denial of a war widow’s pension to his mother.
Alf stepped down from the Commons in 1997 and became a member of the House of Lords as Lord Morris of Manchester, not long after he received the greatest honour in the UK Co-operative movement – serving as President of Co-operative Congress in 1995. He chaired the Co-operative Parliamentary Group on two occasions.
Gareth Thomas MP, Chair of the Co-operative Party, said:
“As a pioneering campaigner for disability rights, Alf Morris embodied the principles of the Co-operative movement.
“Serving as a Labour and Co-operative MP for 33 years before becoming a peer in 1997, Alf was best known for steering the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act through parliament, the first of its kind, and an act that has helped improve the lives of millions of people throughout the country. Speaking last year, Alf described the act as the “legislative expression of the social philosophy of the [Co-operative] Movement”. He continued to campaign tirelessly on behalf of the disabled, and became the first ever Minister for Disabled People in 1974.
“Alf will be remembered as a tremendous advocate for the chronically sick and disabled, and as a devoted and committed champion of the co-operative movement throughout his career.”
Cathy Jamieson MP, Chair of the Co-operative Parliamentary Group, said:
“Lord Morris of Manchester, or Alf Morris as he was best known to us in the Co-operative movement, was a truly inspirational figure. He leaves an incredible legacy from his work on introducing the legislation which became the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, securing the rights for disabled people which are often taken for granted today.
“But he was also a real champion of the Co-op Party, serving over 30 years as a Labour & Co-op MP, and remaining true to his roots on moving to the House of Lords.
“I recall him offering encouraging words to Labour & Co-op candidates over the years, and he was a stalwart of the Co-op Parliamentary Group to the end.
“He will be missed by all who knew him and we would do well to follow in his footsteps as we work for the fairer society and opportunity for all that he passionately believed in.”
Ed Miliband said this morning:
“Alf was a pioneering campaigner for vulnerable people across our society. His Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act was a major early step in ensuring equality for people with disabilities. He continued his excellent work when he became Britain’s first Minister for Disabled People in 1974.
“He will be missed by his family, friends and the millions of people with disabilities who have benefitted from Alf’s lifetime of achievements.”
Baroness Royall, Labour leader in the Lords, said he had “transformed the lives of millions”. On Twitter, she commented:
Very sad to learn that Alf Morris died on Sunday after a short illness.He transformed the lives of disabled people in the world
— Janet Royall (@LabourRoyall) August 14, 2012
Dame Anne Begg MP made clear the difference Alf made:
When I first got Mobility Allowance which transformed my life I didn’t know that the man I had to thank was Alf Morris who has sadly died.
— Dame Anne Begg MP (@annebegg) August 14, 2012
Britain’s greatest Paralympian, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, spoke for many this morning:
Sad to hear of death of Lord Alf Morris. Fantastic campaigner for disabled people…. — Tanni Grey-Thompson (@Tanni_GT) August 14, 2012
Fellow Labour & Co-operative peer Glenys Thornton summed up the view of Alf’s colleagues
An inspiration. Founder disabled rights. Still campaigning until very recently, (Lord) Alf Morris has died. Very sad. Will be much missed — Glenys Thornton (@GlenysThornton) August 14, 2012
Our thoughts are with Alf’s family at this time.