Author: Okezie Chukwumerije*
Published: February 1997
Review on the Merits
The new English Arbitration Act has significantly reformed English arbitration law and consolidated changes made by recent judicial decisions in England. Notable among the features of the new Act is the primacy it grants to the autonomy of the parties to an arbitration. The Act stipulates, as one of its general principles, that “the parties should be free to agree how their disputes are resolved, subject only to such safeguards as are necessary in the public interest.” This provision is remarkable because historically English arbitration law had been characterized by extensive judicial intervention in the arbitral process. This intrusive attitude gradually changed over the years. A more congenial attitude to arbitration was embodied in the 1979 English Arbitration Act which was designed in part to curtail the level of judicial intervention in the arbitral process. Some of the significant reforms introduced by the 1979 Act were the abolition of the stated case procedure of judicial review of arbitration and the granting to parties to an international contract a limited right to exclude review on the merits of the award. The 1979 Act was seen as a reasonable attempt to strike a fine balance between the autonomy of the parties to fashion the arbitral process to suit their particular needs and the need to ensure the integrity of the arbitral process and the respect of vital juridical interests.
*Faculty of Law, University of Sydney.