Slaughters strengthens arbitrators’ hand with victory in Lords for HWV

Slaughter and May has won a House of Lords decision confirming the powers of arbitrators using English law.

Partner Nick Gray was acting for the Highlands Water Venture (HWV) consortium, which had been contracted to build a dam in the southern African state of Lesotho.

HWV claimed additional labour costs from the Lesotho Highlands Development Agency (LHDA) after the dam’s construction, and the case went to arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce. HWV was partially successful, and the arbitrators ordered the award to be paid in sterling and euros.

LHDA, represented by White & Case construction head Ellis Baker, took the case to the High Court to ask for an order that the award should have been paid in Lesothan maloti, as the disputed contract was governed by Lesothan law. Mr Justice Morison agreed, saying the tribunal had exceeded its powers in determining the currency of the award.

But the Lords held that if any error had been made it was an error of law and ord-ered that the award should be paid and that the tribunal had not overstepped its powers.

Gray said: “It’s of great importance to all clients who want to arbitrate in this country, as it means there will be considerably less interference by the courts going forward.”

One Essex Court’s Ian Glick QC acted for HWV. Baker used Nicholas Dennys QC of Atkin Chambers.