Work and pensions secretary resigns

The
work and pensions secretary Andrew Smith has resigned.

Smith,
a close ally of the chancellor, said in his resignation letter to Prime
Minister Tony Blair that he wanted to quit the Government to spend more time
with his family and concentrate on working for his Oxford East constituency.

Blair
is expected to face a grilling at his regular monthly press conference over the
reasons behind Smith’s departure, and his plans to reshape the Cabinet in the
run-up to the general election next year.

A
senior Labour backbencher accused elements within the Government of undermining
Smith and other ministers with negative briefings in the press.

Smith
was appointed secretary of state in 2002, having previously served as junior
education minister and chief secretary to the Treasury. Newspaper speculation
says his job may be given to trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt.

By Mike Berry

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