The investor's chronicle, with Matthew Oakeshott

Not a single current cabinet or Treasury minister has built their own business or held a senior executive job as a decision-maker in the private sector.

There are 23 cabinet ministers: seven were lawyers; 10, researchers or lecturers; three, trade union officials; one, a teacher; one, an economist, and one, a public sector consultant. Before the ministers at Treasury entered parliament, they were: a lecturer; a lawyer; a secretary/voluntary worker; a charity campaigner, and a charity executive.

And it shows: time after time the Treasury gets decisions wrong because it does not understand how business and markets work.

Take the proposals to offer full tax relief at the top rate on the purchase of fine wines, vintage cars or second homes and buy-to-let property placed in SIPPs.

My colleague Chris Huhne and I in the Liberal Democrat Treasury team warned against them in the House of Lords, and Commons, for 18 months. I wrote a carefully argued letter to Gordon Brown in June, setting out our objections point by point. We also asked several parliamentary questions. Every time, ministers either didn't understand or didn't care.

Then, in his pre-Budget report, Gordon Brown had a deathbed conversion. The whole potty proposal was scrapped in line with the amendment that we had put down.

Disadvantaged position

Another example was our long campaign to educate Treasury ministers about so-called disadvantaged areas, ending in a humiliating U-turn when they abolished and had to re-impose Stamp Duty on multimillion pound office buildings at Canary Wharf and on prime shops like Harvey Nichols in Leeds.

Now, with the flotation of defence firm Qinetiq, of which US firm Carlyle Group owns almost a third, the Treasury has miserably failed to protect taxpayers' interests by handing a vast property windfall to venture capitalists. They haven't sold the family silver; they have paid the Americans to take it away.

On REITs, the Treasury's proposed rules are so restrictive that the British Property Federation says they would in practice ‘offer such an unattainable business model for a UK REIT that it is highly unlikely that anyone would choose to set up and operate under such restrictions'.

And the public finances and public services will pay a heavy price for many years to come for the Treasury's failure to insist on proper clawback clauses on windfall refinancing gains on the early private finance initiative contracts in the London Underground, NHS and railways.

Recent weeks have become chaotic in the long bond and particularly the index-linked long-dated gilt market. A bubble was allowed to develop, making pension funds even more worried about the returns available to match their long-term liabilities. It took far too long for the government to spot that danger, and see what an extraordinary funding opportunity it had been offered at the same time.

There is a pattern here - disadvantaged areas, SIPPs, REITs, PFI, and index-linked gilts. Anyone with serious business experience and a feel for the way in which people make money out of opportunities would have seen these fiascos coming and taken action to avoid them. But not the Treasury.

For a government that pretends to be so business-friendly, real business people are conspicuous by their absence at the top.

Previous Labour governments had ministers like Harold Lever, Edmund Dell, Jack Diamond and Joel Barnett who spoke with real authority and personal knowledge about business and markets. They had been there and done that.

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown must fill this gaping hole at the heart of government, fast.