Department of the Environment ministers say enforcing Alan Beith's energy conservation Bill would be too expensive. Pilot studies have shown it would cost from 53p to pounds 1 per household.
The Bill would compel councils to survey all homes in their area, identify those that waste most heat and draw up plans to begin tackling the problem.
It is proposed as a first step to controlling the one-third of Britain's emissions of carbon dioxide - the main global- warming pollutant - that comes from burning fuel to heat houses.
Nearly 400 MPs and more than 180 councils have given their backing. But John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, and ministerial colleagues are planning to ambush the Private Member's Bill sponsored by the Liberal Democrats' Treasury spokesman when it reaches the Report Stage, its final hurdle, in the Commons on Friday.
For a while it seemed that ministers might support the Bill. Tim Yeo, who was environment minister responsible for energy conservation until his resignation last January, said he was 'very keen on its general philosophy'. But government sources say that Michael Portillo, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has insisted it is killed or emasculated because of the extra costs.
The Government's own attempts to address the threat of global warming by controlling coal, oil and gas-burning, and thereby carbon dioxide emissions, have run into trouble. A quarter of the reductions pledged at the Rio Earth Summit were to have been achieved by a new Energy Savings Trust running energy conservation programmes financed by small extra charges on gas and electricity bills.
But Dr Clare Spottiswoode, the gas industry regulator, has ruled the charges illegal, while the electricity industry regulator, Professor Stephen Littlechild, is only prepared to allow small-scale funding.Reuse content