Justice Minister David Ford announced a review of sentencing policy for those found guilty of murder, on 11 June 2012.
Mr Ford said the review would go ahead once the Court of Appeal had completed its consideration of the sentence handed down to John Paul Wootton in the case of the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll.
Constable Carroll was shot dead in Craigavon in March 2009.
Mr Ford said sentences for the murder of police officers would form a major part of his review.
The minister questioned the value of a sentencing council, as proposed by the SDLP, saying it could be "costly to establish, costly to maintain".
Mr Ford said the Lord Chief Justice had agreed to allow two lay members to join his judicial sentencing group.
Earlier in the debate, in proposing the DUP's motion calling for a review of sentencing policy, Jonathan Craig told MLAs that sentencing guidelines for the murder of police officers appeared to value the life of PSNI officers lower than those in Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland.
He observed that there was a mandatory sentence of 30 years for the killing of a police officer in England and Wales, and 40 years in the Republic of Ireland.
Mr Craig described the killing of Constable Carroll as "the most serious murder case since the formation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland".
He added that his party would not support the SDLP's amendment.
Alban Maginness proposed the SDLP amendment calling for the setting-up of a sentencing guidelines council.
Mr Maginness said it was important to send out a strong message to those who would attack the police, and there was a need to address the issue of public confidence in sentencing.
"It is our view that a council should be the preferred method for dealing with sentencing, and sentencing guidelines," he added.
Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney said his party would be supporting the SDLP call for a sentencing council.
He said it was his opinion that the house "should not divide over this motion".
Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey said he was proud to have worn the uniforms of both the RUC and the PSNI.
He described the system in New South Wales, Australia, where a life sentence meant imprisonment for life in most cases.
Stewart Dickson of Alliance expressed his sympathy for Mrs Carroll, as had all the other speakers, and said his party would not be supporting the SDLP amendment.
Jim Allister of the TUV spoke against the involvement of politicians in judicial matters citing the early release scheme, which had allowed for the release of paramilitary prisoners as part of the peace process.
"Our system does allow a review", he said.
The SDLP amendment was defeated and the DUP motion was carried on an oral vote.