The Arbitration Act 1996 (the “Act”) received royal assent on 17 June 1996 and came into force in England, Wales and in Northern Ireland (with some exceptions) on 31 January 1997.
The stated aim of the Act was to “to restate and improve the law relating to arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement; to make other provision relating to arbitration and arbitration awards; and for connected purposes.” It repealed the Arbitration Acts of 1975 and 1979 and largely superseded the Arbitration Act 1950.
On 30 November 2021, the Law Commission announced that it will be conducting a review of the Act with its work to commence in early 2022. In its announcement, the Law Commission stated that the 25th anniversary of the Act is a good opportunity to review and “ensure it remains up to date in all respects, particularly as other jurisdictions have enacted more recent reforms.” A further objective is 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.”
In a consultation on its 14th Programme of Law Reform, the Law Commission received suggestions on parts of the Act which could be included in the review and which included the following:
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 aims to publish a consultation paper on its review in late 2022.
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