Prison privateers were rubbing their hands with glee today after Tory Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said he wants to effectively double prison sentences.
Mr Grayling dangled the prospect of further private prison contracts before the industry, telling reporters he was "attracted" to the idea of keeping inmates behind bars for far longer.
Under current law time behind bars - known as a "determinate" sentence - accounts for only half of the full sentence, with the remaining time served in the community with strict conditions.
But Mr Grayling, who uniquely among lord chancellors has no training or experience in the legal profession, said he wanted to scrap the current scheme entirely.
"It's not something that can be changed overnight, there are constraints on the system, there are constraints on prison places.
"Ultimately, I'm attracted by an option that doesn't simply automatically release you at a certain point, regardless of whether you've behaved well or not."
The recent drop in crime rates for England and Wales - around 6 per cent between June 2011 and June 2012 - proved that locking people away worked, he said.
But Howard League for Penal Reform spokesman Andrew Neilson said: "The very reason we saw the introduction of early release is because successive governments allowed the prison population to run out of control.
"As long as we are sending as many people to prison, then we are forced to have these kinds of systems in place to make places available and that will continue as budgets continue to shrink."
Foreign Minister Alistair Burt's admission that the Cameron government has "supported" a survey of attitudes to US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas amounts to a tacit admission of British involvement.