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Changes ahead for the Arbitration Act 1996?

  • United Kingdom
  • Commercial litigation
  • International arbitration


London is an attractive seat for international arbitration principally because of the pro-arbitration approach of the English courts, and their independence and impartiality. The Law Commission has announced that it will be conducting a review of the Arbitration Act 1996 (the “1996 Act”) which governs arbitrations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure the “pre-eminence of English law as a choice of law” and that England and Wales continues to be the “gold standard” destination for international arbitrations.1

The review of the 1996 Act follows reviews and reforms of equivalent legislation in other jurisdictions including the introduction of the International Arbitration (Amendment) Act 2020 which amended the Singapore International Arbitration Act and the ongoing review of the Arbitration Law of the People’s Republic of China2.

Although the scope of the review of the 1996 Act is still to be finalised, the Law Commission has identified possible areas for reform, which include:

  • 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; and
  • electronic service of documents, electronic arbitration awards and virtual hearings.

Reform in these areas, if implemented, should assist in managing the costs of London-seated arbitrations and  clarifying  the parties’ obligations relating to important matters such as confidentiality (which is not currently expressly dealt with in the 1996 Act).

The review of the 1996 Act will be launched during the first quarter of this year, with a consultation paper to follow by the end of 2022. Any developments will be of interest to those involved in London seated arbitrations and to the international arbitration community more generally given London’s position as a key centre for international arbitration. Eversheds Sutherland will publish further updates in due course.


1. See the Law Commissions’ announcement:

2. See our previous article on the PRC review.