The government has denied reports that it has asked energy firms to freeze household bills until after the next general election.
The BBC reported that ministers were pleading with the big six energy providers to prevent further price rises that could be blamed on green levies, according to industry sources.
However, the government says that it has engaged in “information gathering” exercises with the companies, adding that this has been misinterpreted.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has previously pledged to install a legislated price freeze for 20 months if his party wins the next election. He heralded the plans as part of the solution of what Labour is calling the “cost of living crisis”, promising to toughen regulation of the energy sector.
The government dismissed the proposal as a “con”, while prime minister David Cameron called it “a gimmick” on Miliband’s part.
“I know you want to live in some sort of Marxist universe where you can control these things but you need a basic lesson in economics”, he told his Labour counterpart.
However, if these reports are true, then the Conservative party is seeking a non-legislated prize freeze at least 18 months long, apparently as long is there is no significant increase in wholesale fuel cost.
Miliband said this was evidence that Cameron is “a weak and flailing prime minister“.
He added, “What we now know is that while David Cameron has in public been opposing an energy price freeze, in private he has been pleading with the energy companies to get him off the hook.”
Meanwhile, shadow energy secretary, Caroline Flint, argued, “The truth is that only by legislating for a freeze can we guarantee that it will happen.
“David Cameron won’t do that because he’s not prepared to stand up to the big energy companies.”
Each of the big six energy firms, except E.ON, have unveiled winter price rises in recent weeks. This led David Cameron to pledge to review the impact of environmental and social taxes on energy bills, suggesting they should be rolled back.
On Friday, two leading renewable electricity suppliers Good Energy and Ecotricity, announced that they are bucking the trend, and voluntarily freezing their prices over the winter.