A SENIOR Labour peer has been criticised after he claimed nearly £45,000 in overnight expenses to stay in a property he inherited from his late mother.

George Foulkes, who is also an MSP, billed the public to stay in a London flat registered as his company's address.

His claims were made over a two-year period in which he bought almost £600,000 of property without a mortgage and made £400,000 on another home.

The SNP branded Foulkes, who uncovered details of first minister Alex Salmond's expenses, a "prize hypocrite" and urged him to explain his bill.

Lord Foulkes, a former Labour MP, divides his time between the House of Lords and Holyrood, where he is a Lothians MSP. He was ennobled in 2005.Figures show he claimed £18,623 in "overnight subsistence" in his first year in the Lords and £26,105 in the last financial year. Peers can claim £165.50 tax-free for every night they spend in London on Lords' business.

The Sunday Herald can reveal Foulkes racked up nearly £45,000 in overnight costs for staying in a London flat he inherited from his late mother.

"Netta" Foulkes bought the Lambeth property in 1980, months after her son was elected to Westminster. Property records show he acquired the flat months after her death in 1999, and took a mortgage out on it four years later.

He went on to claw back around £45,000 in "overnight subsistence" for staying in the flat while on Lords' duty, claims that coincided with a flurry of activity in the property market. In 2005, he sold one Edinburgh property and bought another in the capital for £305,000 , without a mortgage. He sold his home in Ayrshire for £600,000 - a deal that made him a £400,000 profit - and bought a cottage in Maybole for £280,000, again without a loan.

His London abode also appears to be the business address for his work as a director and political consultant with Carrick Court Associates, which makes £50,000 per year.

The claims will put further pressure on Westminster to reform its expenses system, and come after Holyrood has been dogged by revelations over MSPs claiming public money for staying in properties linked to relatives.

Foulkes has been a staunch defender of the expenses regime at Holyrood and Westminster, despite a stream of stories about extravagant claims. He described criticisms of the Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance, which allows MSPs to charge the public for their mortgage payments, as "misguided and mischievous".

Foulkes said yesterday: "This is beneath contempt. I have stayed there since 1980. I still have costs in London. I claim for having a flat and overnight stays, including food, travel and taxis.

On whether he planned to reduce his overnight costs in the future, he said: "I don't know. Let's hope the cost of electricity and other things is maintained at the current level."