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Arbitration Bill aimed at modernising law introduced to parliament

By Bianca Castro >>

(22 November 2023)

Arbitrators will be protected from ‘unreasonable lawsuits’ and be required to tell clients about anything that could cast doubt on their impartiality under legislation introduced to parliament today. 

The Arbitration Bill, which will amend the Arbitration Act 1996, was introduced in the Lords by Lord Harlech on behalf of justice minister Lord Bellamy KC. Bellamy said: ‘These much-needed changes will modernise the role of arbitrators and further cement our position as a world leader in the field. The UK is a globally-respected hub for legal services, with English and Welsh law the bedrock for the majority of international disputes, and the Arbitration Bill will ensure businesses from around the world continue to come here to resolve their disagreements.’

The bill follows recommendations and proposed updates to the Arbitration Act from the Law Commission of England and Wales.

Changes include strengthening the courts’ power to support emergency arbitration; providing more clarity on arbitration law; simplifying procedures to reduce delays and costs for clients; and protecting arbitrators from ‘unreasonable lawsuits’.

The bill will also introduce a duty on arbitrators to tell clients any circumstances which could cast reasonable doubt on their impartiality in deciding a dispute outcome and extended arbitrator immunity. Clarity on which law underpins arbitration agreements will also be provided.

Arbitrations in England and Wales are said to be worth around £2.5bn to the UK economy each year in fees alone. 

Catherine Dixon, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, said: ‘We are pleased that the UK government has included legislative reform of the Arbitration Act as a key priority in this parliament, recognising the importance of arbitration to the UK and globally, as the act forms the basis of legislation in many other jurisdictions.’

A date for the bill’s second reading has not yet been fixed.

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)