The Bank of England has announced that a member of its Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has died suddenly.
David Walton, 43, died unexpectedly last night following a short illness, the central bank revealed in a statement.
Mr Walton, who joined the Bank of England in July 2005, was seen as the most hawkish voice on the MPC in recent months, having been the only member to vote in favour of an interest rate hike in both May and June.
His death leaves the rate-setting committee with just seven of its nine usual members, with the Treasury yet to announce a replacement for Richard Lambert following his departure in March to head the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
Paying tribute to Mr Walton, Bank of England governor Mervyn King said: "All our thoughts are with David's wife, his young children and his parents."
"David inspired the respect and affection of all his colleagues in the bank, and today's news has come as a shock to us all, as it will to those who knew him in the City, where he made his reputation as an economist."
Mr Walton, who graduated from Durham and Warwick universities with degrees in maths and economics, began his career as an economist at the Treasury.
In 1987 he joined investment bank Goldman Sachs, where he was promoted to become the company's chief European economist.
On his appointment to the MPC, chancellor Gordon Brown described Mr Walton as "one of the UK’s leading business economists and a highly respected commentator on economic affairs in parliament and more widely".
Mr Walton also acted as chairman of the Society of Business Economists and was a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.