Review of the Arbitration Act 1996

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

The Law Commission has published a consultation paper which contains provisional law reform proposals to ensure that the Arbitration Act 1996 remains state of the art.

Download the consultation paper here. 

Download a summary of the consultation paper here.

We request responses to the consultation by Thursday 15 December 2022. Responses to the consultation may be submitted using this online form. Where possible, it would be helpful if this form were used. Alternatively, comments may be sent by email to 

The current position

Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution. If two or more parties have a dispute which they cannot resolve themselves, instead of going to court, they might appoint a third person as an arbitrator to resolve the dispute for them by issuing an award. They might appoint a panel of arbitrators to act as an arbitral tribunal. 

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.  

Arbitration is a major area of activity. For example, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, headquartered in London, has more than 17,000 members across 149 countries. Industry estimates suggest that international arbitration has grown by about 26% between 2016 and 2020, with London the world’s most popular seat.  

The Arbitration Act 1996 (“the Act”) provides a framework for arbitration in England and Wales and Northern Ireland. It has been 25 years since the Act came into force. This anniversary presents a good opportunity to revisit the Act, to ensure that it remains state of the art, so that it provides an excellent basis for domestic arbitration, and continues to support London’s world-leading role in international arbitration. 

The project

The UK Government asked the Law Commission to review the Act, to determine whether there might be any amendments to the Act, to ensure that it is fit for purpose and that it continues to promote the UK as a leading destination for commercial arbitrations. 

The consultation paper 

In preparing our consultation paper, we have spoken with a wide range of stakeholders, and we have conducted our own research into the provisions of the Act. Overall, we have heard repeatedly from stakeholders how the Act works very well, with major reform neither needed nor wanted. That is also our provisional assessment. Nevertheless, there are a number of discrete topics, listed below, where we ask consultees whether reform might be merited to ensure that the Act remains at the cutting edge.  

The specific areas we discuss in detail in the consultation paper are as follows. 

1. Confidentiality

2. Independence of arbitrators and disclosure.

3. Discrimination. 

4. Immunity of arbitrators. 

5. Summary disposal of issues which lack merit. 

6. Interim measures ordered by the court in support of arbitral proceedings (section 44 of the Act). 

7. Jurisdictional challenges against arbitral awards (section 67). 

8. Appeals on a point of law (section 69). 

We also discuss some minor amendments to clarify or streamline various provisions of the Act. Additionally, we received many other helpful suggestions from stakeholders. We have considered them all, but chose to focus on a shortlist of topics. The principal suggestions which we did not take forward to a full review are also set out in the consultation paper, along with a brief explanation of why they did not make our shortlist.  

Our proposals are provisional, and subject to this formal consultation exercise. We hope as many interested parties as possible will respond to the consultation. Responses will inform our final recommendations which might, in appropriate cases, depart from our current provisional proposals.  


To contact us, or to be added to our mailing list and receive updates about this project, please email

Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Commercial and common law


Professor Sarah Green