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1996 and All That: A Memorable History of (Arbitration in) England – An Event to Celebrate 20 Years of the Arbitration Act 1996

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15 July 2016

​17 June 2016 represented the 20th anniversary of the Arbitration Act 1996 coming into force. To celebrate this milestone, Allen & Overy hosted an event, on the eve of the anniversary, to look back on developments in the Act’s short history and to consider its future.

Toby Landau QC (who was closely involved with the DAC Committee in drafting the Act) opened proceedings by providing a highly entertaining account of the Act’s inception, speaking about the many challenges involved, recounting tales of meetings in attic rooms and windowless basements with asbestos in which much deliberation and hard work concerning the new Act took place.

There then followed a session in “This Is Your Life” format, introduced by A&O partner Richard Smith, at which Allen & Overy lawyers Shreya Aren, Naomi Briercliffe and Alastair Campbell and Essex Court barristers Iain Quirk, Siddharth Dar and Jern-Fei Ng debated some of the key issues that have arisen over the Act’s lifetime. The motions debated were:

  • nti-suit injunctions have been effective in preserving arbitration;
  • The review of jurisdiction decisions de novo in all cases under s67 and s103 is unjustified; and
  • Section 68 of the Arbitration Act is, in its current form, reasonably fit for purpose.

A&O partner Kate Davies then chaired a panel session considering the key issues and trends that could shape the Act’s future development.  David Joseph QC, Graham Dunning QC and Ricky Diwan QC from Essex Court considered topics such as the standard of proof required to establish the existence of a valid arbitration agreement, the power of the courts under section 44 of the 1996 Act to grant injunctions against non-signatories to the arbitration agreement and developments with regard to confidentiality (in particular exceptions to the scope of confidentiality).

This discussion was complemented by a short video of interviews with The Hon. Sir Bernard Eder (Essex Court), John Beechey CBE (former President of the ICC Court of Arbitration), Judith Gill QC (President of the LCIA and A&O Partner) and Matt Gearing QC (Co-Head of A&O’s global arbitration group), looking at potential threats to London as an arbitration hub and the future for the legal framework of the Act.

To round off a very successful evening, a spoof news broadcast speculated on how the arbitration landscape could look in 2036 – reporting on stories such as the death of the common law and the emergence of the pressure group “Arbitral Men” seeking equal representation on arbitral tribunals.

Roll on the next twenty years!


Throughout the history of the 1996 Act, Allen & Overy has played an instrumental role in shaping the development of arbitration law and practice in England.

Our work in this field includes successfully acting for the ICC, as an intervener, before the UK Supreme Court in the case of Jivraj v Hashwani [2011] UKSC 40, a significant case concerning arbitrator nationality, which had serious implications for the future of arbitration in London. 

Another example is our successful representation of our client AES, before the UK Supreme Court in Ust-Kamenogorsk Hydropower Plant JSC v AES Ust-Kamenogorsk Hydropower Plant LLP [2013] UKSC 35.  Our work on this case, the leading case on anti-suit injunctions in support of an arbitration, was rated as “Standout” in the Financial Times’ Innovative Lawyers Report, 2014.

If you would like any more information about Allen & Overy’s International Arbitration Group, please contact Richard Smith on +44 20 3088 3734.