Energy companies turn up the pressure
Are ministers being blackmailed?
Yes, according to the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg. He says it's the energy companies who are doing it.
He claims that the message coming from the companies to ministers, who are asking them to fund more help for people struggling to pay their fuel bills is - in effect - if you force us to cough up for that we won't invest in the new nuclear power stations and renewable energy sources that you need to meet your climate change targets.
An announcement on a new energy package which was, at one stage, slated for this week is now not due till next. Negotiations are, I'm told, still ongoing.
Ministers are not ready to adopt the idea of a windfall tax which is so popular amongst Labour MP's and activists for fear of further undermining business confidence in the government. Publicly, they refuse to rule it out hoping that the threat of it will focus the minds of the industry.
The idea of auctioning off the remaining carbon trading permits is complex and would require European Commission agreement.
So, for now, ministers need the industry to cough up voluntarilty and, what's more, they are reliant on the companies to deliver their goals for them. It will be the energy companies themselves that offer a better "social tariff" (cheaper energy for the poor) to more customers. It will be them too, along with government, who will have to promote energy efficiency measures to cut household bills. My Whitehall sources claim that the delay is precisely because ministers are ensuring they're not blackmailed and that the companies do not simply pass on the cost of helping the poor other customers.
After a lukewarm reaction to his housing plans Gordon Brown will want to be sure that his energy plans are not greeted in the same way.