Browne warned: “Cuts on this scale will not merely drive down quality, they will force practitioners out of legal aid work.

The Bar accepts that there has been a lack of parity between prosecution and defence fees. That disparity arose simply because the CPS did not revise their rates in line with those of Lord Carter.

“It is the height of perversity to turn this issue on its head and force defence fees down to the level of unacceptably low prosecution fees.”

Browne has written to the heads of criminal sets asking for their views on how best to respond to “see off ” the proposal.

The MoJ also proposes to reduce fees for police station work in some areas, combine work on committals into one fixed fee, end payments for criminal file reviews, and pay experts the same for work in civil as in criminal cases.

Barristers have until 12 November to respond to the consultation.