The surprise resignation of Work and Pensions Secretary Andrew Smith will force Prime Minister Tony Blair to plough ahead with a Cabinet reshuffle.
Smith, who is seen as a close ally of Chancellor Gordon Brown, was app-ointed two years ago.
The vacancy could be filled by any number of willing candidates. Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt and Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon are tipped for the position but a reshuffle could see a more junior minister such as Treasury Financial Secretary Ruth Kelly take the role.
Pension experts believe that a new man or woman at the helm will not make a significant difference to pension policy as legis-lation for the next two or three years, including A-Day, has already been set in train.
Smith tried to restore battered confidence in company pensions with the Pensions Bill, establishing a pensions regulator and a protection fund to help members of occupational schemes if their employer goes bust.
Cicero Consulting director Iain Anderson says: “This certainly comes at an interesting time with the Pensions Bill still running through the house and the impact of Adair Turner's report in five or six weeks. Whoever fills Smith's shoes will have a lot to deal with.”