SOUTHEND West MP Sir David Amess has appealed to his Government to help him bring back a pet tortoise he was given as a gift in Cyprus.

The veteran Conservative said he would have to get a “mortgage out of the Palace of Westminster” to bring back his shelled pet, which he was given during a fact-finding trip to the Mediterranean.

He was given a tortoise along with Enfield Tory MP David Burrowes and has appealed to tourism ministers in Government to help him find a “friendly carrier” to help rescue the animals.

He spoke out in a debate over exotic pets in Parliament, recalling a time when he was canvassing in Southend and saw a cat with spots that he initially thought was a leopard.

He said: “I recently returned from a trip to Cyprus, where my hon. Friend Mr Burrowes and I were presented with two common tortoises called Fama and Gusta.

“However, because of certain issues, those two tortoises, which we wanted to rescue, are still on the beautiful island of Cyprus and, under the arrangements in place, we would have had to get a mortgage out on the Palace of Westminster to bring them back.

“I have contacted the Minister for Tourism in Cyprus to see if some kind carrier could do us a favour, so that at least my hon. Friend could have a happy Christmas with his family by rescuing the two tortoises.”

The debate was started by Conservative MP for North West Norfolk, Henry Bellingham, who queried whether the law can be bolstered to protect exotic animals, raising concerns over the welfare of the animals and internet buying of animals.

The exotic pet population in the UK, including fish, totals some 42million, according to latest figures.

Sir David, who has represented Southend West since 1997, said he has tried to get animal welfare legislation through Parliament as far back as 2002.

He said: “We all know that small animals are cute. Puppies are cute and a little alligator, 6 inches long, looks cute, but then it grows.

“The level of irresponsibility of the people buying these pets is absolutely ridiculous. That is why, over the years and with other colleagues who have been consistently interested in animal welfare issues, I have tried to change things.”