Tens of thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers will no longer receive legal aid under Ministry of Justice plans to save millions of pounds each year.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke wants an end to the current system whereby asylum seekers whose applications are turned down and immigrants facing deportation orders can repeatedly challenge decisions using state funds. Of the £900million civil legal aid budget, a tenth was spent last year on asylum and immigration cases.

The Justice Ministry will also look to make savings in medical negligence cases, an area which has cost £82million over the past three years. Under plans being drawn up, victims of operations which have gone wrong will no longer receive legal aid to sue the NHS.

They are part of Mr Clarke’s proposal to cut 25 per cent from the Justice Ministry’s £9billion-a-year budget.

The legal aid budget has soared by £500million since 1997, with more being spent on legal aid in England and Wales than almost anywhere else in the world.

Charities and lawyers have reacted furiously to the proposals. Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: ‘Further slashing legal aid for asylum seekers will result in people being wrongly refused protection here and returned to countries where their lives will be in danger. This is unacceptable.’