Preventing criminal solicitors from instructing their own in-house advocates and a statutory ban on referral fees were among government proposals to enhance the quality of criminal defence work.

The consultation, Preserving and enhancing the quality of criminal advocacy, also sought views on introducing a panel scheme for publicly funded criminal defence advocacy, similar to the Crown Prosecution Service’s scheme.

The ministry said the measures seek to address concerns over standards and the operation of the market, and reduce the influence of financial incentives on the choice of advocates and support clients’ rights to make an informed choice.

The payment of referral fees paid by advocates is already banned by the Bar Standards Board, but the Ministry said it had been told by many, including the Bar Council, that such payments are frequently made.

Lord Chancellor Michael Gove said: ‘I hope they will raise quality standards in our criminal defence market, ensure the market works fairly and make the choice of advocate available more transparent.”

The consultation ends on 27 November.