YOUR report (LET, March 3) of the Vicar of Whalley offering himself for election to Ribble Valley Council throws up some interesting points, chiefly arising from MP Jack Straw's observations on clerics who have served on various bodies.

Mr Straw is misinformed about Chris Bryant, the current MP for Rhondda, when he says he is still a priest. Mr Bryant was a priest, but as a priest of the Church of England cannot by law sit in the House of Commons(House of Commons Clergy Disqualifications Act 1801).

He has signed a Deed of Relinquishment of his holy orders, thus reverting to the role of a layman, specifically in his case to stand for Parliament.

Incidentally, this disability -- to sit in the House of Commons -- also extends to priests of the Roman Catholic Church (RC Relief Act 1829).

Mr Straw's other observations are simply uninformed and, indeed, quite amazing, falling into the "when is a vicar not a vicar" category.

The highly-regarded former Blackburn councillor, the Rev. Jim Watson, would have been horrified or highly amused to see himself described as a 'parish priest.'

He was, of course, a Non-Conformist minister of the Congregational Church.

Mr Straw's description of the Rev Henry Dickinson as a 'vicar' reveals a common technical error. While Mr Dickinson is a priest, he has never been a vicar or a parish priest.

He served as as a Non-Stipendiary Minister (NSM) in Blackburn and Burnley and currently, like me, holds the Bishop's Licence to Officiate.

I therefore, for the record, am still a priest, but not a vicar.

THE REV. BRIAN STEVENSON, Chatburn Close, Great Harwood.