§ Mr. Woolas
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will make a statement on her plans for the Women's National Commission. 
§ Ms Harman
One of my priorities as Minister for Women is to establish a new dialogue with women. I presented a framework of principles and goals for a renewed Women's National Commission to their members earlier today.
Our statement on the framework of principles and goals is as follows:Government Review of the WNCStatement from the Ministers for Women
modern and dynamic—geared to meet the needs of women's organisations and Government in the 21st century, both at home and abroad;
- 1. The Government review was launched in September 1997. Its aims are: to examine the objectives, membership and funding of the WNC in the light of the Government's need to ensure that there is an effective, efficient, independent channel of communication between women's organisations and Government for the 21st century; to assess costs and benefits; and to develop, if appropriate, options for change.
- 2. This statement sets out a framework of principles and goals which have been agreed by the Government team reviewing the WNC for consideration by the WNC at its plenary session on 24 February 1998. Draft specific terms of reference for the WNC, incorporating the principles and goals set out in this paper, will be available in May for discussion at the next available plenary session of the WNC.
- 3. The WNC provides a channel for the views and experience of women's organisations to be conveyed to Government. However, far greater precision and clarity is needed about the role of the WNC and the terms of its relationship with Government. To be an effective and efficient channel for communication between Government and women's organisations, the renewed WNC must be:strong and influential—capable of adapting and maximising the opportunities presented by rapidly changing circumstances;broadly based and widely known—representing a wider range of organisations and with a high profile among organised women;fully accountable for its use of public resources—entering into mutual agreements with Government which specify tasks, objectives and timetables, and reporting on an annual basis, so that performance can be monitored and outcomes evaluated;able to speak with a genuinely independent voice—steps will be taken to increase independence by evolving into a non-government organisation and relocating outside Government;free to grow and change in directions of its own choosing—functions specified under agreement with Government will be publicly funded; the WNC will be given practical encouragement to generate funds to support other activities;given clear and settled funding arrangements—protected against risks commonly faced by similar voluntary and/or umbrella organisations.