I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the work of the slightly less glamorous part of the Royal Air Force that does long-distance surveillance missions. They are an important part of the UK’s defence strategy and our ability to monitor and observe what our adversaries are doing. Their work over the past year above the north Atlantic and the high north, the Baltic, the Black sea, the eastern Mediterranean and across the middle east has been central to defence operations. The team at RAF Waddington and at Lossiemouth should be congratulated.
We understand that UK surveillance assets such as Rivet Joint are providing surveillance support to Israel. I appreciate that, for reasons of operational security, the Minister cannot comment on the operational specifics of this activity, but will he rule out the possibility that these platforms are being used to support target acquisition?
While I was grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his initial question, he also gives me an opportunity to make an important clarification. Rivet Joint is not flying in support of Israel; it is flying to observe the risk of escalation in the region, to inform decision making in the UK MOD, and for nothing else.
To the relief of people everywhere hoping for a Christmas getaway, I am told that this particular volcanic ash is not the same as that of last time and thus does not pose such a threat to aviation. However, we are, of course, monitoring it carefully and have contingencies.