New UK Arbitration Bill announced by King Charles III

Following the UK Law Commission's consultations on the Arbitration Act 1996 (the Act), a new Arbitration Bill (the Bill) is included in the legislative programme for the coming parliamentary session. The Bill was announced by King Charles III in his inaugural speech at the State Opening of Parliament on 7 November 2023. 

The Bill will update the Act and will apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. As this Act forms the basis of legislation in many other jurisdictions, this development is of international interest. 

Catherine Dixon, CEO of Ciarb, says, "We worked very closely with the UK Law Commission during its review of the Arbitration Act 1996. As the leading professional body for dispute resolvers, we are delighted that the majority of our recommendations were adopted in the Law Commission's report and, subsequently, the Bill. 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." 

Ciarb contributed extensively to the review of the Act in several ways by: 

  • Co-hosting a public consultation event with the Law Commission, attended by senior academics and practitioners, amongst others. 
  • Hosting a session focused on the Law Commission's consultation for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alternative Dispute Resolution, for which Ciarb acts as secretariat. Participants included senior members of the judiciary and dispute resolution practitioners who had been involved in drafting the Arbitration Act 1996. 
  • Submitting detailed and robust responses, informed by input from many of its senior practitioner members, to the Law Commission’s consultations. 
  • Heavily promoting the UK Law Commission’s consultations, encouraging its global membership of dispute resolution practitioners to respond. 
  • Meeting with officials to discuss the importance of arbitration to the UK economy and in effectively resolving disputes globally. 

The King’s Speech signalled that the Government has accepted all of the recommendations put forward by the UK Law Commission in its review and report on the Act. These include:  

  • Codification of the statutory duty of disclosure. 
  • Strengthening of arbitrator immunity around resignation and applications for removal. 
  • Introduction of a power to make an arbitral award on a summary basis. 
  • An improved framework for challenges to awards under section 67 on the basis that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction. 
  • A new rule on the governing law of an arbitration agreement. 
  • Clarification of court powers in support of arbitral proceedings, and in support of emergency arbitrators. 

Also approved are the UK Law Commission’s recommendations for minor corrections which include:   

  • Making appeals available from an application to stay legal proceedings. 
  • Simplifying preliminary applications to court on jurisdiction and points of law. 
  • Clarifying time limits for challenging awards. 
  • Repealing unused provisions on domestic arbitration agreements. 

Read Ciarb’s responses to the first consultation and second consultation.