LCAM’s very own Jonathan Wood was one of the many speakers providing their expertise at ‘the Arbitration Act at 25’ Conference on 31 January 2022. The discussion on the day varied greatly: views were given on the use of arbitration in everything from Family to Maritime law; landmark court judgements related to arbitration were probed; institutional, judicial and international perspectives on the Arbitration Act 1996 were considered.

Jonathan Wood detailed the rich subject matter insurance and reinsurance has been for arbitration. The Halliburton and the Enka judgements, both mentioned several times throughout the day, were after all insurance cases. Wood’s overall sentiment was that the Arbitration Act 1996 has served insurance well over the years. England is still regularly chosen as the seat of arbitration and section 69 of the Act has been adequate to address points of law from an insurance perspective. Nevertheless, reservations were posed about whether arbitration has been as inexpensive and quick as expected, and whether legislation was an adequate means for fixing this issue.

This could be explored further by the Law Commission. The penultimate speaker was the Law Commissions Professor Sarah Green. Looking to the future of the Arbitration Act 1996, Professor Green provided details of the review of the Act and encouraged engagement with the review from all interested parties. As is standard for Law Commission reviews, the review of the Act will look to keeping the law modern, fair and cost-effective.

The day ended with a lively debate: “This house believes the Arbitration Act 1996 is still ‘best in class”. The motion presupposed that compared to competitor laws of other countries and UNCITRAL’s Model Law, England and Wales’ Arbitration Act is the best example for the rest of the world. The opposition side of the debate had a difficult task – although discussion during the day had posed contrasting viewpoints, a generally positive view of the Act had prevailed. Arguments were presented about how any act in operation for as long as the Arbitration Act (the purpose of the conference being to celebrate its 25th anniversary) is due for reform and that it was unnecessarily long (over 100 sections compared to the Model Law’s 36). However, the proposition held the favour of the house by convincingly arguing that the best of the Model Law was built upon when the Act was being drafted, meaning that although its age means it should be reviewed, it has been the best Act to date. A narrow lead saw the house vote in favour of the motion.

Eleanor Umeyor, LCCI Research Assistant – National