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Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lester, for putting down this amendment. I regard it as a very important point. We must do our best to ensure that the position is wholly clear.

There is much common ground between us. We are both clear that the European Convention on Human Rights does not apply to consensual arbitrations under Part I of the Bill. We are concerned in this part of the Bill, as he indicated, with statutory arbitrations. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, will doubtless recall, if others do not, that at the Second Reading, in answer to his

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speech, I sought to propose a possible distinction between statutory arbitrations where the executive was not involved in the dispute. I sought to suggest that perhaps in those circumstances the convention did not apply. It is important to put on record that upon further reflection I depart wholly from the attempt to suggest such a distinction. I accept that the convention applies to all statutory arbitrations, even those where the executive is not involved in settling the dispute. I accept that the state is engaged by virtue of having established the framework under which the arbitration is to take place.

It goes without saying that we take our obligations under the convention most seriously.

It is clear that the Bill must comply with the convention in relation to statutory arbitrations. The fact that the Bill does not expressly require tribunals in statutory arbitrations to be independent as well as impartial should not be taken to mean that independence is not a necessary attribute of such tribunals. The provisions of the Bill are consistent with a need for the tribunal to be independent. There is no provision for the Executive to overturn a decision of the tribunal. There are various avenues of appeal to the court for an aggrieved party.

If there is any doubt about a particular tribunal, the proper way of dealing with the matter is in relation to that tribunal. If necessary, the power in Clause 100(1) would be available. I am confident that the Bill is not inconsistent with the requirements of the convention, and that no change is necessary to the text. I have taken some time to go through my response slowly and, I trust, clearly because I am conscious of the importance of what is being said, and my words on this matter might be subject to scrutiny on some later occasion. However, I hope that what I have said is sufficient to reassure the noble Lord, and that he will consider that he can now withdraw his amendment.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: I am extremely grateful for that considered and detailed statement. I have mixed feelings about having been the successful advocate in the case of Pepper v. Hart but the statement by the Minister does illustrate that there are some cases in which a studied ambiguity in the text of legislation may actually be desirable, and this may be one of those. I am grateful and satisfied that that statement does put the position extremely clearly and that to try to incorporate that in the text of the Bill would be very difficult to do, and is really unnecessary. If there is any doubt about the concept of impartiality and independence in the context of statutory arbitrations, it is now made clear by the Minister. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 98 agreed to.

Clauses 99 to 112 agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

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Schedule 2 [Modifications of Part I in relation to judge-arbitrators]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 29:


Page 42, line 36, leave out ("and 45(6)") and insert (", 45(6) and 69(8)").

The noble and learned Lord said: The amendment is needed to correct a small oversight. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Consequential amendments]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 30:


Page 50, line 12, leave out from beginning to ("(restrictions") and insert--
("35.--(1) The Judicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 35(2)").

The noble and learned Lord said: The Bill will extend to Northern Ireland. Current Northern Irish arbitration law differs from the law of England and Wales in certain respects, and consideration has been given to the extent to which Northern Irish law should align itself with the provisions of the Bill. The following four amendments all relate to Northern Ireland. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendments Nos. 31 to 33:


Page 50, line 15, at end insert--
("(3) In section 55(2) (rules of court) after paragraph (c) insert--
"(cc) providing for any prescribed part of the jurisdiction of the High Court in relation to the trial of any action involving matters of account to be exercised in the prescribed manner by a person agreed by the parties and for the remuneration of any such person;".").
Page 50, line 21, leave out from beginning to ("(civil") and insert--

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("37.--(1) The County Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1980 is amended as follows. (2) In Article 30").
Page 50, line 31, at end insert--
("(3) After Article 61 insert--
"Appeals from decisions under Part I of Arbitration Act 1996
61A.--(1) Article 61 does not apply to a decision of a county court judge made in the exercise of the jurisdiction conferred by Part I of the Arbitration Act 1996.
(2) Any party dissatisfied with a decision of the county court made in the exercise of the jurisdiction conferred by any of the following provisions of Part I of the Arbitration Act 1996, namely--
(a) section 32 (question as to substantive jurisdiction of arbitral tribunal);
(b) section 45 (question of law arising in course of arbitral proceedings);
(c) section 67 (challenging award of arbitral tribunal: substantive jurisdiction);
(d) section 68 (challenging award of arbitral tribunal: serious irregularity);
(e) section 69 (appeal on point of law),
may, subject to the provisions of that Part, appeal from that decision to the Court of Appeal.
(3) Any party dissatisfied with any decision of a county court made in the exercise of the jurisdiction conferred by any other provision of Part I of the Arbitration Act 1996 may, subject to the provisions of that Part, appeal from that decision to the High Court.
(4) The decision of the Court of Appeal on an appeal under paragraph (2) shall be final.".").

The noble and learned Lord said: As I indicated in speaking very briefly to Amendment No. 30, these amendments all relate in differing minor respects to Northern Ireland. I would intend to move them formally unless noble Lords wish me to elaborate on any one.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

The remaining schedule agreed to.

Bill to be reported with amendments.

Committee adjourned at ten minutes before six o'clock.

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