Protest crawl over rights for disabled: For five hours, demonstrators were denied access to the Palace of Westminster to lobby MPs over failed civil rights Bill. Steve Boggan reports

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The Independent Online
'PISS ON PITY', said the T- shirts and the wheelchair logos, but it was indeed a pitiful sight; half a dozen disabled people crawling on their hands and knees, begging for access to the Mother of Parliaments.

Tourists were halted yesterday at the sight of the group, some being wheeled, others being dragged or dragging themselves from one gate to another to protest against the skulduggery that stymied the Bill that would have guaranteed their civil rights.

The protest at the Palace of Westminster was organised by the Disabled People's Direct Action Network in the wake of the admission by Nicholas Scott, Minister for the Disabled, that his department drafted the 80-odd amendments that led to the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill being talked out of Parliament.

Yesterday's protest was intended to be symbolic - the group wanted to crawl into the St Stephen's entrance of the Palace of Westminster - but it became real when they were denied access for five hours.

Despite being invited in by Dennis Skinner, Labour MP for Bolsover, six people who abandoned their wheelchairs were refused access by Philip Wright, a deputy Serjeant at Arms, who said the St Stephen's entrance was unsuitable as it has 14 steps.

After being promised access at the Carriage Gate, the main entrance for MPs in cars, the group began their 100-metre crawl. It took 53 minutes of tearing trousers and scuffing shoes.

They had to wait for a further three hours. Even when two asked to go to the toilet, they were directed to a public convenience 200 metres away. Finally, after the intervention of Mr Skinner in the House, the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, said the party should be given access and they were wheeled in to lobby their MPs.

(Photograph omitted)