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Law Commission to review the Arbitration Act 1996

Law Commission

3 min read Partner content

The Law Commission has today, 30 November 2021, announced that it will conduct a review of the Arbitration Act 1996, the principal legislation governing arbitrations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The review aims to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of international dispute resolution.

Since it was enacted, the Arbitration Act 1996 has helped to make the UK – and London in particular – a leading destination for commercial arbitrations. However, with the Act now 25 years old, reform may be required to make sure that the Act is as effective as possible, particularly as other jurisdictions have enacted more recent reforms to their own respective arbitration legislation.

This project will review the 1996 Act, and, if necessary, make recommendations to Government for reform. The overarching aim will be to maintain the attractiveness of England and Wales as a “destination” for dispute resolution and the pre-eminence of English Law as a choice of law.

Professor Sarah Green, Commercial and Common Law Commissioner said:

“The quality of the Arbitration Act 1996 has helped London become a leading seat for international arbitrations, however, there are some aspects of the Act which could be improved in light of modern arbitration practices.

“The Law Commission’s work will enhance the experience for those who choose to arbitrate in England and Wales and maintain English law as the gold standard in international arbitrations.”

Catherine Dixon, Director-General of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, said:

“The 1996 Arbitration Act has played a pivotal role in making England, Wales and Northern Ireland a leading global centre for commercial arbitration. Whilst there are different views on whether amendments are required, 25 years on from its enactment, it is right that the legislation is reviewed to ensure the framework it provides remains effective, agile and responsive to the changing landscape of dispute resolution worldwide.

“CIArb made a significant contribution to the Law Commission’s 14th Programme consultation in July, and we are pleased that the review of the Act has now been confirmed. As the leading professional body for dispute resolution practitioners, we look forward to working closely with the Law Commission to ensure the review has a positive impact, and we encourage our members to fully engage with the review process.”

The scope of the Law Commission’s review will be determined in the coming months. However, as part of its 14th Programme of Law Reform, the Law Commission received a number of submissions on areas of the 1996 Act that could be included. These possible areas include, but are not limited to, issues relating to:

·        the power to summarily dismiss unmeritorious claims or defences in arbitration proceedings

·        the courts’ powers exercisable in support of arbitration proceedings

·        the procedure for challenging a jurisdiction award

·        the availability of appeals on points of law

·        the law concerning confidentiality and privacy in arbitration proceedings

·        electronic service of documents, electronic arbitration awards, and virtual hearings.

The Law Commission also intends during the course of the 14th Programme to consider the scope for introducing trust law arbitration, alongside wider work on modernising trust law.

Next Steps

The Law Commission will launch the review during the first quarter of 2022 and aims to publish a consultation paper in late 2022.

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