Arbitration Bill 2008: Committee and Remaining Stages.

Section 1 agreed to.
SECTION 2.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

The Bill essentially introduces the UNCITRAL Model Law on arbitration. We have not tabled any amendments because, if we are to implement the Model Law, we must do so in its entirety without modifications to the legislation. I have no difficulty with section 2 or any other section.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 3 to 32, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedules 1 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I welcome the introduction of this Bill. It provides for a streamlined system of arbitration in Ireland. The best practice in this respect is the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law — Model Law. It is important that it is incorporated unadulterated or modified to ensure we are seen to have legislation in this country which conforms with world standards and best practice and that Dublin can generate business as an arbitration centre.

I asked on the previous occasion whether the Minister could outline any initiatives the Government would take on foot of the passing of this Bill to promote Dublin as an arbitration centre. We have set a high standard in terms of the commercial court. Many multinationals operate in this business and many financial institutions are based in the IFSC. This Bill, when enacted, will play a fundamental part in providing an alternative resolution procedure to the courts and Dublin can play a big part in that. Perhaps the Minister of State will refer to that point in his concluding remarks.

I welcome the passage of the Bill and add my voice to that of Senator Regan in my party's welcome for it. We decided in the Labour Party not to table amendments to it. However, I raised a number of concerns on Second Stage which the Minister of State indicated he would take on board.

It is welcome that we are streamlining arbitration procedures. It is extremely important that we would generate the notion of Dublin as a hub for international arbitration. On the previous occasion I raised a concern expressed by some arbitration practitioners that "if ain't broke, don't fix it", but I believe, on balance, there is a strong argument to be made for implementing and applying this international model here across arbitrations. I hope there will be sufficient protections in this legislation for the consumer in terms of the small contracts to which arbitration will also be applied from now on. I welcome the Bill. I thank the Minister of State for his time in dealing with it.

I welcome the Bill and thank my colleagues on the other side for its speedy passage. It is important legislation that can have a critical impact on our commercial sector, nationally and internationally, in the future.

I thank the House for passing this Bill. I thank the Minister of State for dealing with the matter in a swift and efficient manner. While I welcome balanced remarks on issues, amendments and objections raised by Members opposite, when Bills come to the House that are not contentious and overdue, such as this one, I respect and appreciate the magnanimous manner in which my friends on the other side of the House, Senators Regan and Bacik, have dealt with this Bill in an appropriate way.

I say a sincere word of thanks to all Senators, including Senators Regan and Bacik, for their no-nonsense approach to this legislation which they recognise is for the benefit of this country. I am sure had they wanted to nitpick, they could have done so.

We were thinking about it.

We do not nitpick just for the sake of it.

Given the season that is in it, there might have been an atmosphere for them to do so.

I say a sincere words of thanks to my officials, Regina Terry and Mary Joy, not only for their backup support in the Seanad but for their prior briefing on the legislation. I very much respect the knowledge they have in this and other areas.

I wish to respond to one or two points raised but, first, I will formally respond to the debate on the Bill now that we have concluded our work on it. I will return to the issues raised by Senators Regan and Bacik. I thank the Senators for the support they expressed for the Bill.

This Bill is essentially an exercise in the consolidation and modernisation of our current arbitration law which, especially in the domestic sphere, has remained largely untouched since the enactment of the Arbitration Act 1954. The Bill will provide a single reference point for arbitration within this jurisdiction. It does that largely by giving the force of law to the Model Law of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law which is widely recognised as setting the standard for arbitration law.

The most important question to ask is what changes will occur in terms of Ireland's influence and what advantages will be gained on foot of enacting this Bill? We must make it clear that this is an attempt to give an assurance that there will be non-governmental intervention or involvement in this area. That is the first point to make. While it is not enough simply to rely on that, it is important our embassies promote the fundamental change provided for in this Bill. Ministers when they travel abroad on economic issues should promote this measure at every advantage. The process of attracting international arbitration business to this country is no different from the process which is dependent upon attracting other forms of mobile investment. The issue here relates to mobile investment.

It should be made clear that while international arbitration welcomes government support, it does not welcome government interference. That is the most important aspect of this Bill. To be fair, Senators across the House made this important point, namely to get the message across to the international community that this is change for good and that it will rely on arbitration in its purest sense. Quite clearly, there will be no government involvement.

In practice, and this is evident from other jurisdictions, it is the case that a certain amount of the promotion work has been done by those who are practitioners in the field. We have to rely also on practitioners. Such practitioners will be actively engaged in any arbitration work which takes place in Ireland. They will already have an innate understanding of the arbitration industry in Ireland as it stands now and, as such, I venture to say they are ideally placed to promote Ireland as a suitable venue for large-scale arbitrations. I understand that informal contacts have already taken place with relevant professional bodies in other jurisdictions which are aimed at forging the links which will help to channel arbitration business to this jurisdiction. On the passing of this legislation, it is up to the Government to ensure that in all promotional work, economical or otherwise, the change in this area is pointed out.

Senator Bacik raised a point on the previous occasion of the exclusion of certain types of employment disputes from the scope of this Bill. Section 30, which replicates section 5 of the Arbitration Act 1954, excludes arbitration under agreements relating to the terms and conditions of employment. An example of this exclusion would be provided under the consolidation arbitration schemes of the type which are common in the public service and which are sector specific. Also excluded is the arbitration under section 70 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946. That section empowers the Labour Court, with the consent of the parties, to refer an actual or apprehended trade dispute back to arbitration. To elaborate on that, a particular reason for the exclusion at the time was to ensure the various review mechanisms envisaged by the High Court would not apply in the case of such arbitration. The exclusion also recognised the fact that certain categories of labour dispute were catered for by the statute-based schemes of dispute resolution which had their own established specified codes or were governed de facto by their own established practice and procedures.

When the Bill was being developed, advice was sought from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment as to the appropriateness or otherwise of maintaining this particular exclusion. The Department was of the view that the application of the general framework of arbitration legislation in the type of case mentioned, which is covered in section 30 of the Bill, would lead to unnecessary confusion. It was also noted that, notwithstanding the exclusion, alternative dispute resolution methods have now become an important source of experimentation within the employment dispute area. The distinctive character of employment disputes and grievances and the related public framework for dispute resolution which exists were together seen as justifying the continued exclusionary provision contained in section 30 of the Bill.

I am obliged to the Minister of State for that response.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 12.20 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.