Clause 17 - Timing of arbitrator’s award

Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:25 am ar 14 Rhagfyr 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London)

The clause establishes the timeframe for making awards, requiring arbitrators to make an award as soon practicable or, in the case of a normal hearing, within 14 days.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

We recognise that both businesses and landlords will benefit from prompt solutions to rent debt. Can the Minister explain why a different time frame is appropriate for the making of the award depending on whether an oral hearing is held or not? It would also be helpful if he could explain what

“as soon as reasonably practicable” means in this context. What would be a reasonable period of time for the award to be made?

Stakeholders have suggested to us that under the pubs code, awards and adjudications can take up to a year to be published. Presumably the Minister can confirm that this would certainly not be reasonable. He has talked in general terms about time limits before, but given that there is no stipulated time limit under clause 17(1), what recourse would the parties have where no award is forthcoming in a timely manner?

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London)

Although the applicant making a reference to arbitration must submit a formal proposal, there is the option for the respondent to also submit a formal proposal. Both parties also have the option to submit revised proposals. In addition, some cases may be more complex than others, and the arbitrator may need to ask for further information. The Bill therefore provides that the arbitrator must make the award as soon as reasonably practicable, which will allow for any additional work required because of the complexity of the case. I assure the hon. Lady that we are indeed hoping and expecting such cases to be resolved within a matter of months rather than, as she described in relation to the pubs code, anywhere approaching a year.

When there is a long period, there is a clear date on which the hearing concludes and evidence has been given, so that is why the Bill provides that the arbitrator has 14 days from the day on which the hearing concludes to issue such an award. Some cases that go to oral hearings may have added complexities, so the arbitrator may need more than 14 days to consider arguments, facts and evidence that have arisen. There is a discretion there for the arbitrator to extend the time limit if they consider that it would be reasonable, in all circumstances.

Photo of Mick Whitley Mick Whitley Llafur, Birkenhead

Will there will be any retrospective payments? In the bundle of evidence some companies submitted, they say that they have been pressed for their outstanding debt. If this Bill goes through, does that mean that any retrospective payments will be made by the arbitrator?

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London)

I will write to the hon. Gentleman if I am getting this wrong, but I think the arbitrator can take the whole situation into account, including what has been paid and the evidence that has been given, when making the final judgment. I will write to the hon. Gentleman if that is not as full an answer as he wants.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 17 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.