A British department store which advertised for a Father Christmas (Santa Claus) was told it was discriminating against women. 

The advertisement was kept out of the JobCenter in Liskeard, Cornwall, until the owner of the store wrote a letter explaining why the post was suitable for a male applicant only. 

Bruce Robinson, owner of Trago Mills, said: "With no disrespect to ladies, Father Christmas is, and always has been, a man. He has a deep voice, a long white beard, and a large corporation [physique]. Trying to suggest that his role should be undertaken by a female is insane political correctness." 

Mr Robertson had asked Janet Curnow, the Liskeard store manager, to place the Santa advertisement in the JobCenter. She was told it would have to be approved by the Employer Direct central helpline in Exeter. 

Mrs Curnow said: "I got a phone call from a lady in Exeter who asked me if I realized that I could not advertise for a Father Christmas because you can't specify that you want a man. She said it was discriminatory and the only way I could get around it was to write her a letter explaining why I felt I had to have a man for the position. She did say it didn't have to be a long letter." 

Mr Robertson immediately wrote a letter to Employer Direct asking them to forward a copy to the Department of Work and Pensions. 

He wrote: "If your people would like to pass the following criteria to the Liskeard JobCenter, I guarantee to be entirely impartial in our selection and appointment of a Father/Mother Christmas. 

"The person, if female, should, therefore, have a) a deep voice; b) whiskers; c) a big belly; and d) no readily discernible bosom. My only concern is that if our choice is limited to such a candidate, I fear for our children, who will doubtless be terrified." 

The department said yesterday that there was no problem advertising for a Father Christmas. A spokeswoman said that normally when employers advertised a job for a single sex, they did have to explain the reason why, but there were exceptions to the rule, as in the case of Father Christmas. 

She said: "This was a simple misunderstanding. The advert was pending for a number of days as the Employment Service always seeks assurances from the employer that they will vet any applicants working with vulnerable groups such as children. This has now been confirmed."