The King’s speech, which was delivered today (7 November 2023), confirmed that Parliament will consider the Law Commission’s recommendations for the reform of the Arbitration Act 1996 (the Act) in the forthcoming parliamentary session.
The Arbitration Bill featured as part of a package of new legislation intended to grow the economy. The background briefing notes for the King’s Speech state that “The Arbitration Bill modernises the law on arbitration as recommended by the Law Commission of England and Wales…. These new measures will bolster England, Wales, and Northern Ireland’s world-leading domestic and international arbitration sector with benefits for individuals and businesses seeking to resolve disputes, as well as boosting economic growth“.
The announcement in the King’s speech did not indicate whether all the Law Commission’s recommendations will be put before parliament in the form of the existing draft bill appended to the Final Report. However, the briefing notes do refer to the headline changes identified in the Final Report almost verbatim.
We understand that it is likely that the Law Commission’s special parliamentary procedure will be adopted. The procedure, which is suitable for “uncontroversial” bills, is intended to reduce the time that Law Commission bills spend on the floor of the House by providing for certain stages to be carried out in Committee. This can speed up the scrutinisation process and increase the chance of the draft bill being passed. Given that the Law Commission has already prepared a draft Bill, this should also reduce the amount of time required for the approval process.
Andrew Cannon, Partner and Deputy Head of Global Arbitration (West) at Herbert Smith Freehills LLP commented today “It is fantastic to see the Arbitration Bill feature in the King’s Speech today, implementing the recommendations of the Law Commission. It has been a commendable process from the start, and hopefully this will mean a swift and efficient process through to Royal Assent.”
As we mentioned in our previous blog post, the Law Commission’s Final Report makes several significant recommendations for change and proposes other more minor amendments. The main recommendations include codifying an arbitrator’s duty of disclosure, introducing a new rule regarding the governing law of the arbitration agreement, and introducing a power of summary disposal for decisions on issues that have no real prospect of success. For a summary of the Law Commission’s recommendations in its final report, please see our previous blog post here.
For further information, please contact Paula Hodges KC, Partner, Craig Tevendale, Partner, Chris Parker KC, Partner, Andrew Cannon, Partner, Hannah Ambrose, Partner, Charlie Morgan, Partner, Vanessa Naish, Professional Support Consultant, Liz Kantor, Professional Support Lawyer, or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.