§ John Robertson
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment his Department has made of the performance of the Sema Group in its contracts to operate the Benefits Agency Medical Service. 
§ Maria Eagle
The Department undertook a major review of the contract in 2001 as a basis for negotiating new and more stretching service level targets for the extension of the existing contract to 2005; the revised targets reflected recommendations for improvements made by the Social Security Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee.
There are more than 60 targets against which Medical Service's performance is measured, including targets for speed, accuracy and quality; achievement of these targets is reviewed on a monthly basis, with the vast majority being regularly met. For example, in respect of incapacity benefit examinations, the actual average clearance times target of 32 working days (from the receipt of the referral for examination from the DWP to the return of the case to the DWP) has consistently been met, with a year to date performance of 29.5 working days.
The latest report published by the National Audit Office on 17 October 2003 recognised that there has been good progress, and significant improvements to the contracted services.