The lord chancellor yesterday signalled reforms to the legal aid system to tackle soaring spending on criminal cases, which saw one barrister receive £1.6m in payments for the years 2002 to 2004.

Lord Falconer announced the appointment of the Whitehall troubleshooter Lord Carter of Coles to consider a complete shake-up in the payment system, including the possibility of introducing competitive bidding between lawyers for legal aid cases.

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