Parliamentary reaction to the announcement and implementation of the UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy: applied thematic analysis of 2016–2020 parliamentary debates

Catrin Pedder Jones, Emma R Lawlor, Hannah Forde, Dolly RZ van Tulleken, Steven Cummins, Jean Adams, Richard Smith, Mike Rayner, Harry Rutter, Tarra L. Penney, Olivia Alliot, Sofie Armitage, Martin White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) (announced March 2016; implemented April 2018) aims to incentivise reformulation of soft drinks to reduce added sugar levels. The SDIL has been applauded as a policy success, and it has survived calls from parliamentarians for it to be repealed. We aimed to explore parliamentary reaction to the SDIL following its announcement until two years post-implementation in order understand how health policy can become established and resilient to opposition. Design: Searches of Hansard for parliamentary debate transcripts that discussed the SDIL retrieved 186 transcripts, with 160 included after screening. Five stages of Applied Thematic Analysis were conducted: familiarisation and creation of initial codebooks; independent second coding; codebook finalisation through team consensus; final coding of the dataset to the complete codebook; and theme finalisation through team consensus. Setting: The United Kingdom Parliament Participants: N/A Results: Between the announcement (16/03/2016) - royal assent (26/04/2017) two themes were identified 1: SDIL welcomed cross-party 2: SDIL a good start but not enough. Between royal assent - implementation (5/04/2018) one theme was identified 3: The SDIL worked - what next? The final theme identified from implementation until 16/03/2020 was 4: Moving on from the SDIL. Conclusions: After the announcement, the SDIL had cross-party support and was recognised to have encouraged reformulation prior to implementation. Lessons for governments indicate that the combination of cross-party support and a policy’s documented success in achieving its aim can help cement the resilience of it to opposition and threats of repeal.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere51
Number of pages12
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number1
Early online date24 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

For the purpose of Open Access, the author has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author-Accepted Manuscript version arising.

Data Availability Statement

The lead author has full access to the data reported in the manuscript.


  • government
  • health policy
  • parliament
  • political debate
  • soft drinks industry levy
  • sugar tax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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