It also warns that the increased use of solicitors in Crown Court work is threatening the long-term future of the junior criminal Bar and may be affecting the quality of advocacy in those courts.

Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the committee, said: “The LSC has been doing a far from competent job of buying legal aid from lawyers. “The Commission’s plans, recently abandoned, to introduce price competition in the legal services market were hamstrung by its lack of knowledge of that market.”

Paul Mendelle QC, Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “After years of training, young barristers enter the profession burdened by debts running into tens, often scores, of thousands of pounds.  “They work extremely long hours and earn modest incomes, out of which they have to pay all their own expenses, for many years. Cuts like these will hurt the junior Bar most and will force many to give up publicly funded work.”

Nick Green QC, Chairman of the Bar, said: “It is galling, to say the least, for the Bar to witness such very damaging financial mismanagement.” An LSC spokesperson said: “We will consider the PAC report carefully and submit a formal response in due course.”