Freezing benefits for two years would be "unacceptable" the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats has said, putting him on a collision course with Nick Clegg who is reported to be prepared to back the move.
Lacklustre economic growth has led George Osborne to consider slashing welfare costs by £10bn in order to avoid having to make further cuts to other areas of public spending such as education or health.
However Simon Hughes told The Huffington Post UK that policy had not been agreed by the Lib Dems and he would be "unlikely to vote for a freeze across the board in benefits".
“We are coming to the crucial period as to where we go now. If more money has to be found there are many in our party and beyond who would say it ought not to be people at the bottom of the heap," he said.
"It would be unacceptable to me that we ask people on the lowest incomes to take more of a hit when we have the biggest disparity in wealth and income that we have had in all of your lifetime and mine."
However his party leader is said to be considering performing a U-turn on his previous position and throw his support behind the Tory plan.
A source close to Clegg told The Sun: "This is a time of incredible economic challenges and we have to look at all the options available."
In an interview with HuffPost ahead of the Lib Dem conference in Brighton this weekend, Hughes said the gap between the "haves and have-nots" needed to be closed and that the "very rich" should "pay a significantly bigger amount".
"There’s a perfectly proper debate to have as to what the uprating formula is for benefits," he said. "There’s a much bigger debate in which that has to be centred, which is: Who pays the price?"
He added: "I can assure you that there are pretty intense discussions going on leading up to the autumn statement in December about where the additional cuts will come."
As Lib Dems prepare to gather in Brighton, a poll published today showed that 66% of people are dissatisfied with Clegg's performance as deputy prime minister, a net satisfaction rating of -43.
The Ipsos/Mori survey also showed that he is also the only party leader whose own supporters do not back him, with 51% believing he is doing a bad job.
By contrast only 27% of Tories are unhappy with David Cameron and 34% of Labour backers do not like Ed Miliband.
The full interview with Hughes will be published later this week.