Clause 19 - Arbitration fees and expenses

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

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 9:25, 14 Rhagfyr 2021

I am pleased to move amendment 4, which relates to limits on arbitration fees, and speak to amendment 5, which relates to the accessibility and affordability of the process. We recognise that parties have to meet their legal and other costs, but we believe that arbitration fees and expenses should be proportionate to the arrears that are the subject of the dispute, and that they should not create a significant cost for the parties. I am sure the Minister recognises the harmful effect that a high arbitration cost would have on businesses that are already struggling, and it is only those in very difficult circumstances that are going into the process in the first place.

Clause 19 gives the Secretary of State the discretion to specify ceilings for arbitration fees in secondary legislation. We believe the Secretary of State should make such regulations to provide a cap, which would be the effect of amendment 4. We have also tabled amendment 5, which

“would require the Secretary of State to consider the accessibility and affordability of the arbitration process when specifying limits on arbitration fees.”

That is to ensure that, when setting new limits, the Secretary of State explicitly takes into account how the limits will affect the ability of business tenants and landlords to enter the arbitration process. I hope the Minister recognises the importance of ensuring that arbitration is not too costly for either landlords or tenants, particularly as businesses are again seeing falls in revenues at this stage. There is a cross-party desire to tackle rent debt, but we want the arbitration process to work. For that, businesses must be able to afford to enter the process.

I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to a concern raised by a stakeholder about the fees and costs that the arbitration bodies may apply. I understand that there is a £750 fee associated with a complaint under the rules of certain arbitration bodies. Would such a cost be included within the cap? I thank the Minister in advance for his response.