The Arbitration Bill has passed its first reading and is is concerned with arbitration, which is typically when disputes are resolved by an arbitrator who is privately appointed rather than by a judge sitting in court.
Arbitration in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is regulated by the Arbitration Act 1996. The Bill gives effect to the recommendations of the Law Commission of England and Wales to amend the Arbitration Act 1996.
Arbitration happens in a wide range of settings, both domestic and international, from family law and rent reviews, through commodity trades and shipping, to international commercial contracts and investor claims against states. The Law Commission estimates that there are at least 5000 arbitrations annually in England and Wales, worth at least £2.5 billion to the economy in arbitrator and legal fees alone.
Arbitration is also an important node in a mutually supporting network of business that includes legal, banking, insurance, and trade. In a 2021 survey by Queen Mary University of London and White & Case LLP, London was ranked equal first with Singapore as the world’s most preferred seat for international arbitration. Law Society president Nick Emmerson said:
“The Law Society welcomes the introduction of the Arbitration Bill and we hope that, in due course, this will lead to the implementation of provisions which will protect and reinforce the status of England and Wales as the leading centre for international arbitration in the world.
International arbitration is a major part of the UK’s trade in legal services, with English lawyers providing arbitration services to clients both in England and Wales and throughout the rest of the world. We hope the Arbitration Bill will modernise the offering of arbitration in England and Wales and be a boost to the contribution of the legal service sector to the UK economy.”