Christiani & Nielsen Ltd v Birmingham City Council
Citation: 52 Con. L.R. 56
Nature of case:
Christiani & Nielsen had been engaged by Birmingham City Council under the ICE conditions of contract, cl.66(3) of which provided that disputes could be referred to arbitration, and set out what was required of the reference, including that it should be conducted in accordance with the ICE procedure. C&N gave notice purporting to refer a dispute to arbitration, but failed to comply fully with the requirements under cl.66(3). Later, and more than 3 months after the engineer’s decision, C&N gave another notice which did comply with the requirements. Birmingham CC argued that there had been no effective reference to arbitration. C&N applied for a declaration that valid notice had been given, or in the alternative that the time for giving notice should be extended under s.27 of the Arbitration Act 1950.
The Court gave judgment in favour of C&N, who was entitled to treat cl.66(3) as containing all of the pertinent information for a valid reference. This conclusion was reinforced by the reference to arbitration being “conducted” in accordance with the ICE procedure, the natural meaning of which was that it referred to the carrying on of an arbitration rather than its commencement. Therefore, a failure to comply with the ICE procedure was did not prevent a reference being valid. In the alternative, it would have been appropriate to grant an extension in the instant case under the 1950 Act, where there had been no prejudice and no failure to refer.