Prime Minister holds firm on road tax, but opposition growsFuel protesters are keeping the pressure on Gordon Brown. The latest action saw a motorcade of motorcyclists slow rush-hour traffic on Manchester’s M60 ring road in protest at the current level of fuel duty and the coming increases in tax disc costs. Several hundred bikers took to the road, and police closed sections of the motorway for safety reasons.

Elsewhere, more than 40 Labour MPs have signed a motion called for a rethink. That’s enough to wipe out Labour’s major if it came to a vote and that number sided with the Tories and Lib Dems. MPs worry that the increases in fuel duty, which could see the price of a tax disc for some cars double to over £400, will hit hard-up motorists hardest.

It is thought likely that a 2p per litre rise in fuel duty due this spring, which Mr Brown delayed until autumn, will now be quietly shelved. But so far he has not answered calls to make further cuts in fuel duty. Nor has he offered any concessions over the plan to increase road tax costs.

The Government raised £2.38bn in vehicle excise duty last year. But it expects that to reach £4.43bn by 2011, once the changes are fully implemented.

In a Commons clash with Opposition Leader David Cameron, Mr Brown claimed that 24 of the top-selling 30 models of car would say the same car tax as now, or even less.

But Mr Cameron replied: ‘what you are doing is treating the Ford Focus as one model – in fact there are 40 different models and only three of them will be better off.'