HL Deb 18 January 1979 vol 397 cc1171-3

3.40 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Judicial Review of arbitration awards.]:

Lord LLOYD of KILGERRAN moved Amendment No. 1: Page 2, line 5, leave out ("court") and insert ("arbitrator or umpire").

The noble Lord said: When this Bill passed before the House on Second Reading the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor emphasised that the purpose of the Bill was to remove certain legal obstacles which at present stand in the way of London being used to its full potential as an international centre for arbitration. He stressed that it was most important that our arbitration law should conform with the needs and wishes of the commercial community, and he emphasised how important to the City of London were the measures in this Bill. He said that it is important that the City of London and other centres of arbitration should not be hampered in the maintenance and expansion of their important and historic role in arbitration matters. As your Lordships are aware, the London arbitrators have a famous international reputation. He indicated that the Bill would be important to our balance of payments from the City's services, and those balance of payments are very considerable, and he emphasised that the Bill would remove the deterrents in our arbitration practice which have discouraged arbitrations taking place in this country.

There is one deterrent that I am seeking to remove by my first Amendment to this Bill, one of the deterrents to arbitration taking place in this country at the present time. It relates to the procedure for appeal. It is very easy, as many of your Lordships know, to invoke the practices of the court by appeal procedures, to delay the final decision. The appeal provisions of the Bill with which I am concerned are to be found in Clause 1(3). An appeal under this subsection can, of course, be brought … by any of the parties to the reference with the consent of all other parties to the reference", but the other ground of appeal in this subsection, as the Bill now reads, is: … subject to section 3 below, with the leave of the court".

My Amendment is to bring the arbitrator more nearly to the procedure of appeal, for reasons which. I shall indicate later. Therefore, instead of the word "court"—the necessity to have the leave of the court—my Amendment is directed to omitting "court" and giving the power to grant leave to the arbitrator or umpire. I understand, of course, that there are difficulties about this, but your Lordships will realise that the umpire or arbitrator has been all through the facts and he is usually a very experienced man. It is very rare there is any matter of misconduct on the part of an arbitrator. But serious delays can arise by this appeal to the court. The arbitrator having listened to the parties will know whether or not any of the parties are just introducing procedures to delay a final decision.

Therefore, it seems to me from a practical point of view very helpful to give a power to the arbitrator or umpire to grant leave if it is asked by one of the parties. He is the man who has studied all the facts and he should be able to decide whether or not it is a proper case for appeal, rather than allow the matter to go further to the court. It does also seem quite wrong to me that the arbitrator is not brought into the procedures in other parts of this Bill, but those are matters to which we will come later. This Amendment is directed to giving power to the arbitrator to decide whether there should be leave to appeal after he has heard the case. I beg to move.


My Lords, this Amendment would have the effect of substituting the leave of the arbitrator or the umpire for that of the High Court to bring an appeal under Clause 1(2) upon a question of law arising out of the arbitrator's or the umpire's award. I submit this is not acceptable. The court's power to supervise and to review arbitrations should not depend on the arbitrator's leave. For it to do so would be to make the arbitrator in effect judge in his own cause, and without further amendment there would be no appeal against his refusal of leave as such. It might be reassuring to the arbitrator, but I doubt whether it would reassure anyone else. Amendments Nos. 3 to 7 are consequential on this Amendment and deal with the same point. Accordingly, I am afraid I cannot support the Amendment.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.