The Bill will supply a long felt want in our law in that it will provide a modern and effective law of arbitration. The Bill deals with four types of arbitration. Firstly, it will provide for what is called voluntary arbitration, the essence of which is that the parties to some dispute refer that dispute to a tribunal of their own choosing instead of a court of law. Secondly, the Bill deals with statutory arbitrations, that is to say, arbitrations by tribunals constituted under statute to settle particular types of disputes which arise as a result of statute. Thirdly, the Bill covers references to arbitration by the High Court, where matters of account arise in cases before that court. Finally, the Bill provides for the enforcement of foreign arbitration awards. I shall deal with these four types of arbitration separately.
Voluntary arbitration has been recognised by all developed systems of law. Unfortunately, the law in this country has remained unchanged for almost 100 years. It is not, therefore, surprising that our law is defective in many aspects. One of the main defects is that an arbitrator has no power to award costs, so that a successful party has to pay his own costs and the fees of the arbitrator or arbitrators in order to take up the award. As these costs and fees may often amount to more than the amount in dispute, there is in many instances little point in going to arbitration at all. Another important defect in the existing law is that the authority of an arbitrator may be revoked by either party unless the arbitration agreement contains a provision that the submission to arbitration is to be made a rule of court.
The Bill remedies these two defects and provides, in Part II, for various matters which arise in voluntary arbitration under arbitration agreements. The provisions in that part of the Bill are designed to give what may be called judicial cover to voluntary arbitration.
Part III of the Bill deals with statutory arbitrations. These are arbitrations under various statutes where disputes arising under the statutes are settled by particular persons designated by the statutes themselves. Senators will be familiar with cases where the value of land acquired for public purposes is settled by arbitration in accordance with the provisions of what are known as the Land Clauses Acts. The provisions of Parts I and II of the Bill, with the exception of certain sections, which are not pertinent, are applied to statutory arbitrations.
Part IV of the Bill deals with references by the High Court of matters of account arising in any particular case to an arbitrator who is deemed to be an officer of the court. This part of the Bill will re-enact and bring up to date existing provisions of the law. This type of arbitration is known as compulsory arbitration.
Part V of the Bill concerns the enforcement of foreign arbitration awards made in pursuance of an agreement, to which the Geneva Protocol of 1923 applies, between persons subject to the jurisdiction of States which are parties to the Geneva Convention of 1927. The protocol and the convention are set out in the First and Second Schedules respectively. This country is not a party to either the protocol or the convention but this will be remedied when the Bill becomes law.
So much for the main outlines of the Bill. I should now like to refer to some specific provisions.
Under Section 4 the State will be bound, and this is a reasonable and proper provision. Section 5 excludes arbitrations under agreements relating to the terms and conditions of employment. These are not arbitrations properly so called at all as the arbitrator has no power to make a final enforceable award, nor do the parties to the arbitration intend in any way that he should. Such arbitrations are informal matters. The arbitrators are really mediators who make recommendations and it is up to the parties to accept these recommendations or not to accept them as they so think fit. If, in any instance, the parties want the new Act or any of its provisions to apply to the arbitration, there is, of course, nothing to prevent them doing so.
I hope I have given the House a clear picture of what the Bill involves. Arbitration may have advantages in the settling of disputes, particularly where technical knowledge or special skill or training is required. It is regarded as cheaper than law as a general rule and it is less formal and usually more expeditious. The proposals in the Bill have been placed before the various bodies interested and their suggestions for improvement have, where possible, been incorporated.
The provisions of the Bill are generally on the same lines as the relevant British and Six Counties statutory provisions. The advantages of this to everybody concerned, and particularly to the business and commercial community, are obvious.
I recommend the Bill to the House. It is a technical Bill which may not easily be followed in detail at first glance, but any difficulties or suggestions can be dealt with on the Committee Stage.