Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said if forthcoming tax returns and growth figures are positive, there may be some leeway in next month’s Budget.

Mr Noonan said the biggest economic decision that the Government has to make between now and Christmas is exiting the bailout programme.

Speaking from Fine Gael's party think-in in Co Laois, he said the Budget is a means to achieve that end.

Mr Noonan said this would enable Ireland to get money from the markets like normal, solvent sovereign countries.

The minister said markets are expecting Ireland to have a small primary surplus.

Asked on RTÉ's Six One if it would be possible to achieve a primary surplus with an adjustment of less than €3.1bn,  Mr Noonan said this would depend on CSO and tax figures due later this month.

He said that if both of these figures were quite positive, there might be some leeway.

Politicians from Labour and Fianna Fáil are also gathering for party think-ins ahead of this week’s return to Leinster House.

All parties are focusing on the Budget, next month's referendums and next year's local and European elections.

Speaking in Co Laois, Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted that it is too early for ministers to take decisions on the scale and nature of cuts in next month's Budget.

Mr Kenny said there would be a special Cabinet meeting when tax and spending figures were available over the coming weeks.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said there is scope for the Government to cut less than €3.1bn in the Budget.

Party members will also hear from experts and business figures about the prospects for the economy and jobs.

They are due to consider the campaign in the Seanad referendum tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a Fine Gael backbencher has called for a reduction in the application of the party whip on certain issues that come before TDs.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Eoghan Murphy said that TDs should be allowed to vote freely without being directed by their party on certain pieces of proposed legislation.