Recent remarks by Edward Garnier MP were interpreted by the BBC as a sign that the Conservatives might be abandoning Michael Howard’s ‘prison works‘ policy.

Crime was one of a number of ‘core vote‘ topics not mentioned in yesterday’s Manchester speech but, in an interview with today’s News of the World (not online), Mr Cameron makes it very clear that he still supports the Howard line.  Mr Cameron told the NotW’s Ian Kirby that he would stop Labour’s early release programme:

"It’s ridiculous the way people are let out before their sentences are complete.  For persistent offenders, the public deserve a break from their behaviour and I have said many times we should look at the way sentences work.  The first step would be to scrap Tony Blair’s parole reforms, which now allow 30,000 criminals a year to be freed on licence before they have even completed half their sentence… Prison has to remain a deterrent and people who pose a risk to society should not be allowed into the community."

Mr Cameron’s NotW interview is classic And Theory Conservatism.  As well as affirming the imprisonment of persistent and serious offenders he stresses, like Edward Garnier, the need to do more to rehabilitate prisoners:

"70% of prisoners are functionally illiterate.  If you can’t read you can’t get a job, you have low self-esteem and everything starts to go wrong in your life.  Just 2% of the prison budget goes on education."

Last June Mr Cameron presented a Centre for Social Justice Award to the Shannon Trust.  The Shannon Trust organises literate prisoners into one-to-one mentoring of illiterate prisoners.