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29 Jun 2004 : Column 274W—continued

Vehicle Excise Duty (Applications)

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many applications for vehicle excise duty were processed in Northern Ireland in each month from January to June in each year since 2001. [180814]

Angela Smith: The following table shows the number of vehicle licences issued in each month, January to June from January 2001 to May 2004. The figures for June 2004 are not yet available.

West Nile Virus

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what preparations have been made to deal with a potential outbreak of West Nile virus in the Province. [179658]

Angela Smith: There is no evidence at present of any cases of West Nile infection in people in Northern Ireland or the rest of the United Kingdom. The inter-departmental Regional Zoonoses Group chaired by the Chief Medical Officer is currently considering the issue in liaison with the UK Zoonoses Group on which Northern Ireland is represented. In late May 2004, the Chief Medical Officer in England published a contingency plan to protect the public's health in England in the event of a case of West Nile Virus illness being diagnosed. This will help inform preparations in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service last year recommended that those who travelled to North America defer making donations of blood for 28 days after returning from that area. The Chief Medical Officer's (DHSSPS) "Update" publication has also drawn West Nile Virus to the attention of GPs to raise awareness when considering a diagnosis. Information on West Nile Virus is also included on the DHSSPS website.

Much has been learned from our planning and preparations to deal with infections such as SARS and Influenza, which will enable us to deal with other infections as they emerge.