The Law Commission of England and Wales has today unveiled new proposals to update the Arbitration Act 1996.
Arbitration, which involves parties resolving a dispute privately through a third party rather than the traditional court process, is a major industry in the UK and most commonly involves commercial disputes. Provenio Litigation LLP acts for corporates and investors in substantial disputes both in the UK and internationally.
Over 25 years on from the establishment of the Act, the Law Commission has concluded that it still functions very well, and that its central provisions should remain unchanged.
To help strengthen the UK’s position as an arbitration leader, the Commission has proposed a set of improvements, designed to make the Act as effective and responsive as possible, following recent reforms by competing jurisdictions.
The new proposals include measures to improve the efficiency of cases, give further protections to arbitrators, grant extra provisions to the courts to support cases, and refine the process for challenging an arbitrator and their decisions.
In other areas, including provisions on confidentiality and impartiality, the Commission proposes no changes, on the grounds that the law is already effective and proportionate.
Consultation proposals from the Law Commission include:
Provisions to allow arbitrators summarily to dismiss claims, made by parties, that lack legal merit.
Retaining current duties on the impartiality of arbitrators, with an additional provision on disclosing conflicts of interest, so that such disclosure is fully codified in the Act.
Further protections under the law for arbitrators: strengthening their immunity in certain cases and introducing provisions in support of equality in arbitral appointments.
Extending the capacity of the courts to support arbitration proceedings.
Refining the process for challenging the jurisdiction of an arbitrator, so that challenges in the courts take place by way of an appeal, rather than a full rehearing.
Retaining current provisions around confidentiality and privacy in arbitration proceedings.