Hats off: junior health minister Paul Boateng and shadow health secretary Ann Widdecombe battle for possession of a firefighter's helmet outside the Houses of Parliament at a lobby called by the Spinal Injuries Association.

They were joined by actor Simon Paul, who plays a spine-injured firefighter in Channel Four soap opera Brookside, and other MPs. The SIA has drawn up a spinal injuries charter and is calling for a national protocol to establish equality of care throughout

the UK.

SIA executive director Peter Mansell said: 'Anyone can suffer from a spinal cord injury - it's purely a matter of chance. Unfortunately so is the care you will receive.'