Coalition ministers traded blows over pensioners' benefits today after Iain Duncan Smith urged the wealthy to hand the money back.
Conservative Cabinet minister Ken Clarke said he does not believe it is possible to return money to the Government after Iain Duncan Smith urged wealthy pensioners to hand their benefits back.
Mr Clarke, 72, refused to say whether he returned the universal benefits he is entitled to.
Speaking on Sky News' Murnaghan programme, Mr Clarke said, "It is certainly the case when it comes to a bus pass and when it comes to the winter fuel all taxpayers should decide and recipients should decide what to do with it themselves".
"You can't hand it back to the Government. I don't think it is a system for doing that. Every pensioner and retired person like myself has to make up their own mind about whether they really need it and whether they are going to give it to some worthwhile cause", he continued.
"No doubt most pensioners who are reasonably prosperous give quite a lot of money to charity and worthwhile causes in any event".
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he does not think Iain Duncan Smith's suggestion that wealthy pensioners should voluntarily hand back benefit payments makes sense.
The Liberal Democrat leader told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme, "I think the idea of saying in the meantime, you give people benefits and then you say, 'Oh, by the way, can you please give them back?' - I don't think that makes sense".
"Let's be clear about this. When money is tight, you have to have the right priorities in tough times", Mr Clegg added.
From tomorrow, a pilot project for universal credit - a reform of the benefits system - will begin.
It will bring together several working age benefits into a single payment and its aim is to ensure that no one is better off unemployed and on benefits rather than in work.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:
People will know from day one, for the first time ever, what's expected of them. They'll have a sheet of paper which is their contract... We want to say to people, 'You're claiming unemployment benefit but you're actually in work paid for by the state: you're in work to find work. That's your job from now on: to find work'.
The Work and Pensions Secretary has urged wealthy pensioners who do not need to receive benefits to volunteer to hand back the money to the government.
In 2010, the Prime Minister promised to protect universal payments for the whole term of Parliament, and has so far resisted calls to change it.
The Liberal Democrats have proposed a review of the system, and for them to be taxed.
Iain Duncan Smith's appeal comes the day before the start of a pilot project for universal credit, a reform that would bring together several different benefits for those of working age into a single payment.
The shift is designed to ensure that no one is better off unemployed and on benefits rather than in work.
Iain Duncan Smith has said that wealthy pensioners who do not need to receive benefits should voluntarily hand back the money to the government.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, the Work and Pensions Secretary encouraged well-off elderly people to pay back services such as the winter fuel allowance, free bus passes and television licences.
"It is up to them if they don't want it to hand it back. I would encourage everybody who reads the Telegraph and doesn't need it to hand it back".