The Law Commission recently announced a review of the Arbitration Act 1996, on the 25th anniversary of the law’s entry into force. The law has helped London become a preeminent destination for commercial arbitrations. However, it has been identified by the Law Commission as a piece of legislation that should be reviewed to ensure that it “remains current in all respects”.
The objective of the review is to ensure that England and Wales remains an attractive ‘destination’ for dispute resolution and a preferred choice of law. Following consultation by the Law Commission under the 14th Law Reform Programme, a number of issues have been identified as possible areas for law reform. These included:
- power to summarily dismiss unsubstantiated claims or defenses in arbitral proceedings;
- the powers of the courts that may be exercised in support of arbitration proceedings; and
- confidentiality and privacy law in arbitration proceedings.
Among these possible areas of reform, the issue of confidentiality and privacy is particularly interesting. Confidentiality is a feature of the arbitral process and a key area in which arbitration differs from litigation. However, the law is particularly silent on the issue of confidentiality. Law reform can align national legislation with that of other popular arbitration jurisdictions (such as Singapore and Hong Kong) that have sought to provide legal guidance to parties on their confidentiality obligations. It remains to be seen if and how the Law Commission will choose to address this issue.
The Law Commission will launch its review in the first quarter of 2022 and aim to produce a consultation paper in late 2022.