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Chief Minister Reuben T Meade today expressed deep regret at being unavailable in the region to attend tomorrow's funeral of the late Prime Minister of Barbados, the Honourable David Thompson. Chief Minister Meade leaves for the United Kingdom this week, where he was previously scheduled and will participate in a series of meetings including the Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC). It will be Meade’s closest encounter, along with his other Overseas Territories counterparts, with a number of Ministers of the UK’s Coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron. On September 14, the Overseas Territories Minister, Henry Bellingham, MP, who will chair OTCC 2010, in a letter to Meade, said he proposed to use the opportunity to “set out how we see the new government’s relationship with all the territories developing.” Meade explained that the meetings in London with representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are “of utmost importance particularly during this financially challenging period for the Government and People of Montserrat.” The issues of financial services and public finances, aviation and maritime transport are listed on both the OTCC forum agenda and in bilateral discussions with several UK agencies. The Chief Minister is to also signature a number of Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEA) with Australia and several Nordic countries as Montserrat seeks to comply with OECD and international obligations. “As the Head of Government of a dependency like Montserrat I would want to be fully available to act directly on behalf of the people of Montserrat, especially in the wake of what was described as a recent austere budget for the British people,” the Chief Minister said. Only last week, the Chief Minister of Montserrat sent a message to the Government and people of Barbados in which he lamented the loss of Prime Minister Thompson describing him as an “energetic and industrious leader” whose life will be celebrated at a planned State funeral on 3rd November in Bridgetown. “While one never looks forward to attending an event of that nature, it is with deep regret that I will not be attending the funeral of the late Mr Thompson,” said Chief Minister Meade today. “Let me use this opportunity to once again express my condolences to his widow, Mara, and their three daughters, as well as to the people of Barbados,” added the Chief Minister, who worked at the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank for several years. “Although I will not be present at the funeral in Barbados, I have asked the Honourable Dr Lowell Lewis to serve as a representative of the Government of Montserrat, a request that he graciously accepted. “Despite the fact that Dr Lewis is not a member of the present Cabinet, I thought it fitting that he should attend since he served as Chief Minister during much of the time that Mr Thompson led the Barbados government and worked along with him at the level of CARICOM,” Chief Minister Meade said. Charles Kirnon will act as Chief Minister and Head of Government of Montserrat during Meade's absence.