We will stop early prisoner release, says Cameron

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Indy Politics

David Cameron confirmed today that his party would scrap the early release scheme that could see 25,000 prisoners freed from jail this year to ease overcrowding.

And the Tory leader repeated his belief that he could win a possible snap election if Prime Minister Gordon Brown decided to go to the country.

With crime, defence and terrorism set to dominate today's agenda at his party's conference in Blackpool, Mr Cameron said in a GMTV interview: " We will be saying we have got to stop the early release of 25,000 prisoners this year."

He also repeated his party's pledge to scrap the Government's ID card scheme.

And asked if the Tories could defeat Labour in an early election, he insisted: "We believe we can. We are ready for an election. If the Prime Minister calls it, we are ready to go."

Responding to reports that the Government may be poised to announce a troop withdrawal from Iraq, Mr Cameron said: "I will always put the national interest first and in Iraq, if we are ready to withdraw troops, I will be delighted with that and they will have my backing if they get that right."

Mr Cameron defended his party's proposals to fund tax cuts with a levy on non-domiciled taxpayers against Labour charges that the sums do not add up.

He said: "We are absolutely convinced that our figures are robust. We have spent a long time working on this.

"Accountancy Age estimate that there are 200,000... we are making a small conservative estimate that there are 150,000 people."

Mr Cameron said the charge was "relatively modest" as the average onshore income of those facing the charge was £100,000.

Chancellor Alistair Darling claimed yesterday that the Opposition has seriously overestimated the amount of money that could be raised by the charge.

Mr Cameron told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that he believed the prospect of an early General Election was "more than 50%".

Asked if he expected to be Prime Minister in a few weeks time, he said: "I expect there to be an election and if there is an election, I think we can win it."

He added: "My job is to get the Conservative Party ready ... it's about setting out a really clear and compelling vision for this country, a really clear alternative."

The Tories were offering people more "power and control and opportunity in their lives".

Mr Cameron added: "People want to know from us that we will absolutely put stability first, which we will."

"Clearly we have to convince more people that we are the right alternative for this country. That is what this week is about.

"I think we are having a good success this week and in an election campaign people will be able to judge."

He said Labour had "wrecked the pensions system, made the tax system more complicated and seen violent and gun crime double."

"I think that is why there is excitement in Blackpool this week because people can really see the themes emerging: control and opportunity, stronger families and a more responsible society and also making our country safer. Those are the things people care about."

In his Today interview, Mr Cameron contrasted last week's Labour gathering with his party's conference: "In Bournemouth he (Gordon Brown) just reeled off a shopping list of pledges but no idea how you could achieve them.

"This week you are seeing very clearly, very concisely how we will do the things we want for the future of this country."

He denied that the £25,000 levy plan had not been thought out properly.

"We haven't been looking at this for a few days, we have been looking at this for months and what we know is that in 2004 there are 112,000 non-domiciled tax residents, that number has been increasing very fast ... "

"If you have that £25,000 charge, which we think is fair and reasonable, it is to ask these people, mostly very wealthy people who live in our country and make a great contribution - but who also use public services, that they should secure their non-domicile status by making that contribution.

"We can then make the changes we want to stamp duty and to inheritance tax."