The government could be forced to buy or lease only energy-efficient buildings for its central estate, under plans proposed in a private member’s bill.

The Energy Performance and Procurement of Public Sector Buildings Bill, which has its second reading today, would legally oblige the state to procure “top quartile” rated buildings for Whitehall.

It is understood that the government will interpret “top quartile” to mean an A or B energy performance certificate rating, and that the bill would have had a wider scope, but negotiations with the government restricted it to central governmental departments.

The bill was put forward by Anne Snelgrove, MP for South Swindon, and backed by the Sustainable Energy Partnership.

It was drafted by the UK Association for the Conservation of Energy. Jenny Holland, the organisation’s parliamentary co-ordinator, said the aim of the bill was to “put the government back on track to meet targets it is woefully adrift from”.

In March, a report from the Sustainable Development Commission found that only a third of departments were on track to meet their own 12.5% carbon reduction targets by 2011.

Holland said: “It has said on three separate occasions over four years that it will meet targets. But as is often the case, unless they are backed up by laws, they tend to drift.”