King Fahd appointed a Consultative Council (Majlis ash-Shura) by royal decree in 1992. The Council initially consisted of 60 members, in addition to the chairman, with four-year terms of office. In 1997, the king decreed an increase in membership to 90, followed by another increase in 2001. The Council now consists of a chairman and 120 members. Although membership reflects different sections of the Saudi society, the largest social group in the Council consists of academics with advanced degrees.
The primary function of the Consultative Council is to advise the king. It holds at least one ordinary session every two weeks. It may initiate legislation and review domestic and international policies.
Sessions, Dissolution, State of Exception
According to the Law of the Consultative Council, a new Council is to be formed within two months of the expiration of the term of the old one, and at least half of the membership of the Council must be newly appointed ones. This term limitation is a reform in Saudi politics, since political offices in the past were marked by indefinite tenures.
The King has the power to restructure and dissolve the Consultative Council any time he deems it necessary. The investigation of a member of the Council is conducted by a committee consisting of three members of the Council, nominated by the chairman. Following the investigation, a member may be censured, his salary may be reduced, or he may lose his membership.
The Steering Committee consists of the chairman, his deputy, and the heads of specialized committees. It has authority over the preparation of a general plan for the Council and its committees. It prepares an agenda for the Council meetings, reaches final decisions regarding objections to the minutes of a session, the results of polling, the counting of votes or any other objections raised during sessions. The chairman of the Council submits an annual report to the king on the Council's work. The deputy chairman presides over the Council and the sessions of its Steering Committee when the chairman is absent. In the absence of both, a designee by the king presides. The current chairman of the Consultative Council is Salih bin Abdullah bin Hemaid.
The Consultative Council’s by-laws describe the functioning of the committees, the rules that govern floor debate, and the competencies of the chairman and the deputy chairman.
Committee Structures and Membership
The Consultative Council forms specialized committees from amongst its members. These were rearranged in 1999 and their membership was reorganized in 2000. The specialized committees deal with Educational Affairs, Media and Cultural Affairs, Social, Health and Environmental Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Security Affairs, Law and Administration, Communication and Transportation Affairs, Islamic Affairs, Economic Affairs, Financial Affairs, and Services and Public Utilities. Committees may seek the help of government officials, and experts upon the chairman's approval.
Legislative Drafting Processes
The Council’s resolutions are made official with majority approval. They are then forwarded to the prime minister for consideration by the Council of Ministers. If the views of both councils are in agreement, the resolutions come into force following the king's approval. If there is disagreement, the king decides what he deems appropriate.
Ten members of the Consultative Council may propose a new draft law or an amendment to a law, which will then be submitted to the king. Laws, international treaties and agreements, and concessions are issued and amended by royal decrees after being studied by the Consultative Council and are published in the Official Gazette to take effect.
The Consultative Council is a member of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU).