Mark Williams, Member of Parliament for Ceredigion, has called for the government to rethink proposals over access to legal aid and the closure of courts in Wales during a debate on Tuesday.
Mark raised the worries of constituents and local legal firms who were concerned by changes to what is covered by legal aid as well as the impact of new contracts on those firms who will provide the service.
In the Dyfed-Powys 2 contract area which covers Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys, it is suggested that only four solicitors’ practices will offer legal aid help, making it increasingly difficult for constituents to access local and Welsh language legal advice.
Mark said: “The changes that are being made by the government will have a serious impact on people’s ability to access justice. Not only will the potential closure of courts in rural areas like ours make it increasingly difficult for people to get to hearings, but the new contracts for legal aid will make an already much reduced service even more difficult to access.
“Not one firm in Ceredigion felt able to bid for the contract, either on their own or collaboratively. The Government suggested that small firms would come together to provide legal aid, yet this has obviously not happened.
“With no local firms providing legal aid, there are also real concerns that access to legal aid through the medium of Welsh will be limited.
“Sadly, all of these issues illustrates how the Ministry of Justice simply doesn’t understand the needs of rural communities, and especially Welsh-speaking ones, and I urge them to rethink their decision and ensure that access to justice in Wales is not curbed.”