For lankiness is being viewed as a disqualification for jobs by MI5, the British intelligence service currently on a recruitment drive.

"You should be able to blend into the background. We are looking for average height, build, appearance," MI5's new application forms for jobs say.

The form for the domestic intelligence service states in unequivocal terms that: "Applicants would ideally be no taller than 5ft 11in for men and 5ft 8in for women."

New recruits

MI5 is recruiting after last month's government announcement that it would increase its home security service by 50% to counter the threat from "terrorism", by hiring 1000 new staff.

But under the new guidelines, all of the actors who played James Bond, the world's most famous fictional spy, would be rejected.

"They do have tall people in the building, but it would be ridiculous to send a surveillance officer into a dangerous situation who stood out like a sore thumb," an unnamed official said.

Tall or short, people would not be banned from joining he service, but would not be able to become agents in the field, the official added.

MI5 is one of the pillars of British intelligence, the others being MI6 for external spying and GCQH for electronic eavesdropping.