This year marks the 40th anniversary of Lord Alf Morris’ Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. This act gave ensured the rights and support for the disabled and chronically sick with sections that gave access to education and home support, required disabled access for public facilities, and prevented hospital discrimination. It was the first disability discrimination legislation in the world and has opened the door for subsequent important disability discrimination legislation. Recently, I was able to speak with Lord Morris; he reflected on his involvement with the Co-operative Party and his revolutionary act.

The inspiration for the act came from personal life experiences. Alf’s father, George Morris, was a victim of gassing while he served his country in World War I. With irrevocable damage to his lungs, blindness in one eye, and a shattered leg George Morris was unemployable. Seeing disability discrimination from a young age in his own family had a great impact on Alf that motivated him to improve the lives of others.

Lord Morris embarked on a career in politics and became a Member of Parliament for Manchester Wythenshawe where he sat as Labour and Co-operative. This affiliation with the Co-operative Party and his own personal experiences inspired him to draft the act. Lord Morris himself describes it as “a legislative expression of the social philosophy of the co-operative movement.”

While in New Delhi in 1969, Alf was informed that he had won the first place in the Private Members’ Ballot. He drafted the act from scratch in fifteen days, but was met with fierce opposition. Then Secretary of State, Richard Crossman, was adamant that if there were a need for disability legislation his department would have drafted it themselves.

Despite the opposition he received, Morris persevered on and saw his act passed in 1970. Afterwards, Alf was made an honorary member of the Parliamentary Counsel for his impressive work on drafting the act.

Watch Lord Morris discuss the Act with the BBC.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Lord Alf Morris’ Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, Westminster Abbey will be holding a Thanksgiving Service on Wednesday 30 March 2011 in the Abbey from 11:00 am to noon. If fellow co-operators would like to join Lord Morris and others at the celebration contact Amy Hornbrook on with your name and address, the number of tickets you require and any special requirements, quoting ‘the Co-operative Party’.